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

Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' 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 BoehnerRyan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes Juan Williams: GOP fumbles on healthcare 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 ShaheenDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal Russia sanctions deal clears key Senate hurdle MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanA tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis Sanders to headline 'Don't Take Our Health Care' bus tour Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill 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.