Senate Democrat: Energy bills stalled until fiscal ‘grand bargain’ is struck

Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (D-Colo.) has reached a sobering conclusion: Energy legislation will remain stuck in the political mud until Washington reaches a sweeping – and thus far elusive – financial agreement.

“Until we get a clear architecture built dealing with taxes, revenues, entitlements and federal spending, I think any broad policy initiative is not going to move,” said Udall, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in an interview Thursday.

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“So that speaks to the need for Bowles-Simpson to be implemented,” added Udall, referring to the broad 2010 plan by the federal commission headed by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Erksine Bowles, who was President Clinton’s chief of staff.

That plan has not gained enough traction on Capitol Hill.

Talks between President Obama and House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ohio) to strike a “grand bargain” on spending and tax policy collapsed last year, while bipartisan Senate talks on debt and related matters have also fallen short.

Udall has long been a key backer of a “renewable electricity standard” for utilities that would require an increasing share of the nation’s power to come from sources like wind, solar and geothermal.

He also supports a related proposal for a “clean energy standard” that would credit renewables and other low-carbon sources. 

In addition Udall, in the interview, said that he’d like to see lawmakers dust off a broad bill – called the American Clean Energy Leadership Act – that passed the energy committee on a bipartisan basis in 2009.

But anything ambitious, he said, is dependent on a fiscal deal coming first.

“I think they are all held hostage to a grand bargain, a grand deal, a long-term plan to put the country’s fiscal house in order, and that’s why I think it is so important to do so,” Udall said in the Capitol. “When we do – I am going to say when – then it opens the door to have a discussion about priorities and where federal revenues, federal resources should be directed.”

Udall, however, expressed hope that even in the absence of a wider deal on debt, taxes and entitlements, Congress can move on more targeted energy plans. 

He cited examples including energy efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats ‘freaked out’ about polls in meeting with Clinton GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections Overnight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanThe Trail 2016: Trump’s big night Portman: Trump has 'potential' to help GOP candidates Kasich doesn't regret skipping convention MORE (R-Ohio), and a proposal to help spur development of small modular nuclear reactors.

A major near-term priority, Udall said, is winning extension of the wind energy production tax credit that is slated to expire at year’s end and is crucial to financing new projects.