Lobbyists see powerful opportunities in second term
By Catherine Ho,
Energy lobbyists are gearing up for a boom in business to help shape and implement a wave of regulations governing energy production, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable fuels and other energy and environmental measures that K Street expects the newly reelected Obama administration to pursue aggressively.
The energy lobby has long been active in Washington, with more than 1,600 organizations spending a collective $407 million to influence energy and nuclear issues in the 112th Congress, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit focused on government transparency. That makes energy the fourth-most expensive lobbying issue after taxes ($619 million), health ($615 million) and federal budget and appropriations ($576 million). But some policy experts predict that energy independence could become a central issue for the second Obama term — thus bringing renewed attention to energy and environmental regulations that may not have gained as much traction with a Romney White House.
“The administration hasn’t been shy about using their regulatory and administrative authority to drive their energy independence agenda,” said Beth Viola, an energy lobbyist at Holland & Knight and former environmental adviser to Vice President Al Gore. “There’s no reason to think they’ll do otherwise in a second term.”
During the campaign, one of Obama’s key job creation proposals was to extend a federal tax credit for companies that produce wind and other alternative energy. The president referenced the threat of global warming in his post-election acceptance speech, and has repeatedly stressed the importance of developing sources of American energy that include wind, solar, nuclear and biofuels.
“It’s hard to think about how we grow our economy without addressing energy issues,” Viola said. “It’s one of the reasons this issue kept coming up during the presidential campaign.”
More rulemaking to come
For lobbyists, that presents opportunities to influence dozens of rules being considered by the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, which — through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — just issued new regulations meant to get more renewable energy sources onto the electrical grid. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget, is reviewing 27 pending regulations proposed by the EPA -- the most out of any federal agency. The most closely watched rules before the agencies could impact ozone standards, the regulation of industrial boilers, energy production on public land, methane emissions on oil and gas production and the regulation of creating fractures in rock layers to capture natural gas.
Those issues — in addition to new leadership in the Senate and House committees that oversee energy, natural resources and public works — means lobbyists will be lining up to meet with officials to get their clients’ concerns heard both before and after rules get issued. Viola’s firm Holland & Knight, for example, is lobbying on a wide range of energy issues for companies and associations, including the Advanced Biofuels Association on renewable fuel standards and Dow Chemical on energy efficiency legislation.
“We expect a lot of regulatory activity the next couple years,” said Kevin O’Neill, deputy chair of the public policy group at Patton Boggs. “Lots of things are in the pipeline that will now need to get delivered to the terminal over the next year or two ... That’ll keep regulatory and policy lawyers at places like Patton Boggs burning the midnight oil for months and years to come.”