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

Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator 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 Andrew BoehnerBoehner won't say whether he'd back Biden over Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Amash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise 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 ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems 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.