1. Senate leaders, displeased with moves by the House of Representatives to act on a short-term FAA extension, approved a bipartisan package reauthorizing the agency's activities through September 30, 2017. The House version only authorizes the agency until mid-July of 2016.
NECA's Look Ahead: The Senate laid down the legislative gauntlet on the House. With the upper chamber leaving town for a two-week recess on March 18 and the current FAA authorization running out March 31, the House was left with no choice but to approve the Senate bill or force a shutdown of the FAA. Given that action, the program will be extended to July 15, 2016. Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee's larger reform bill is expected to hit the Senate floor in early April.
2. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is moving forward with its version of a new Water Resources Development Act, the bill that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works mission. The committee heard testimony from Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.
NECA's Look Ahead: A Congressional Research Service report reveals that as of early 2016, the agency was set to move forward on as many as 23 projects valued at $6.6 billion.
3. The Administration has taken two major actions affecting energy production in the U.S. On March 16, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it has identified a Wind Energy Area (WEA) offshore the coast of Long Island, NY for potential wind energy development. The project area is approximately 127 square miles, or 81,000 acres. In other news, the administration released its plan for the nation's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. The Proposed Program evaluates 13 potential lease sales - 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three potential sales off the coast of Alaska. The plan rejected a controversial proposal to allow drilling off the Atlantic coast.
NECA's Look Ahead: These moves come at a time while the Senate continues negotiations over its Energy Policy legislation and amid a report by the Energy Information Administration forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation will exceed coal generation in the U.S. The report said the decline of coal is a result of growing market share for natural gas-fired generation over the past decade, as well as a growing market share of renewables other than hydroelectric power, particularly wind and solar.