US Capitol Building is the home of the United States Congress in Washington D.C, USA. Credit: iStock/lucky-photographer
The results of the 2022 Midterm elections are largely in, giving us insight into what the next couple of years may look like for U.S. energy policy – and its impact on the ability to maintain a reliable and affordable power system while transitioning to a lower carbon grid.
Perhaps the largest consequence of this year’s elections was that Republicans seem virtually certain to have netted enough seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to take over as the majority party. Although the outcomes of some races may not be known for days, Republicans are likely to gain leadership of House committees and have pledged to bolster domestic energy production to help mitigate high prices and step up oversight of federal agencies (like the U.S. Department of Energy).
Control of the U.S. Senate will remain with the Democrats. Governorships in key PJM and ISO New England states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts were won by Democrats, with implications for state-level clean energy efforts. Meanwhile, politics in other major energy markets including California and Texas remained largely unchanged as incumbent governors held office and legislative majorities shifted only slightly.
During many of their campaigns, House Republicans outlined an “all of the above” energy strategy to address high gasoline (and overall energy) prices. While much of the focus centered on increasing oil and gas production, some potential policy changes could address difficulties in building new power generation facilities.
A staff report published by Republicans on the Energy & Commerce committee before the election laid out several priorities for its new majority. Many of these priorities focus on encouraging American domestic energy production and energy exports, particularly of liquified natural gas. The report also highlighted the need to approve domestic critical minerals mining to support the energy transition and pushed for reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
These proposals could bolster support for some renewable generation and battery storage projects by providing new sources of critical minerals.
House Republicans have also pledged to thoroughly oversee how the Biden administration carries out the directives outlined in both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Republicans are also expected to use their new leadership to conduct aggressive oversight on Biden administration policies that they believe are hurting American workers, likely including hearings on energy prices and electric reliability concerns.
House Committee on Energy & Commerce:
A Republican majority in the House means that several key committees will have new leadership (and thus new agendas in 2023). In the House, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) will likely become head of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce after serving most recently as Ranking Member and generally on the committee for the past 12 years. During her time on the committee, she has promoted the expansion of hydropower and domestic oil and gas production.
In the lead up to the election, she highlighted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would all be oversight priorities for her, with a particular focus on how IRA funds are being spent. She also pledged broadly to restore and increase American energy production.
Even with the final result of the Senate race in Georgia still to be determined, Democrats have already secured 50 seats and will remain the majority party when the 118th Congress convenes in January 2023.
Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources:
With Democrats retaining the majority in the U.S. Senate, current Chairman of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee (ENR) Joe Manchin (D-WV) will hold on to the ENR gavel.
In the last few months, Sen. Manchin has pushed hard to pass a package of permitting and siting reforms but received pushback from corners of both parties. Sen. Manchin continues to express his support for an “all of the above” energy strategy, simultaneously supporting the domestic production of fossil fuels, along with fossil and renewable energy generation. Sen. Manchin has declined to schedule a nomination hearing for current FERC Chairman Rich Glick, whose term at the Commission technically expired in July but was renominated several months ago by President Biden.
Democrat Josh Shapiro’s victory could impact whether the state remains a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI. During the campaign, Shapiro discussed the possibility of exiting the agreement because of the important contributions fossil fuel production makes to the state’s economy. He has supported a role for fracking in the state’s economy and expressed reservations about the policy’s effectiveness at limiting emissions and its dangers to jobs. He has called instead for an expansion of the state’s clean energy portfolio for utility companies, more electric vehicle infrastructure, and investments in clean energy research and development, among other things.
In Massachusetts, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey secured a victory in her race for governor. Healey has long pushed to reduce the amount of natural gas consumed in the state, including setting a net-zero by 2050 goal. As attorney general, Healey and her office authored a 106-page document calling on the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to overhaul its decision-making process to prioritize climate goals over the health of utilities and “a transparent and robust alternatives review process as part of the DPU’s consideration of traditional gas system investments.” However, she has also called for additional transmission and easing the permitting process in order to integrate more renewables, speaking on the need for transmission reform to meet climate goals, bring down prices and pushed for changes to speed up FERC permitting processes. During the campaign, Healey vowed that the state would achieve 100% clean electricity supply by 2030 under her administration.
In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore also picked up a governorship after moderate Republican Larry Hogan was term-limited. Moore has pledged to move the state to 80 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035. Moore’s goal would go significantly further than an existing law signed by Hogan that called for reducing the state’s emissions 60 percent by 2031. Maryland’s Public Service Commission could also change hands, as current Chairman Jason Stanek was appointed by Gov. Hogan for a term that ends in July 2023.
Democratic governor Gavin Newsom handily won reelection. Gov. Newsom is currently juggling both an accelerated 2045 timeline for 100 percent clean energy that legislators recently passed, and the state’s ongoing reliability challenges, which recently led to decisions to postpone shutdowns for some nuclear and gas plants. Democrats also preserved super-majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, making significant policy shifts on energy unlikely.
Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton defeated challenger Rochelle Garza. Paxton has been an outspoken opponent of federal energy policy and joined lawsuits against various Obama administration climate initiatives such as EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Incumbent Texas Railroad Commission Chair Wayne Christian also held onto his seat.
EPSA looks forward to engaging with new and returning policymakers to advance competitive solutions to our nation’s power generation needs.