Predictions on 112th Congress and energy legislation

There’s no doubt that Tuesday’s election will have a profound impact on the legislative agenda of the 112th Congress. Law firm SNR Denton has analyzed the results and offers its magnum post-Midterm opus–Election Insight 2010.

This 34 page report presents a clear-eyed look at key races around the country and outlines the must-watch leaders, issues and legislative priorities that will drive the 112th Congress, along with state capitals and the Obama Administration over the next two years.

The report points out that Republicans gained a sizable majority in the House and increased the size of their minority in the Senate to the point where they can functionally block any objectionable legislation. The GOP is once again in a central role in the development of legislative policy.

Given their perceived mandate to reduce the size of government and its oversight role over the private sector, the report predicts that Republicans will likely move to reduce the size and number of federal regulatory regimes and to roll back portions of health care and financial services reform, as well as obligated funds from the economic stimulus law.

All of this legislative activity will take place in the shadow of the 2012 Presidential and congressional elections. With a hotly contested presidential election (and GOP primary) and a positive electoral map for Senate Republicans, the 112th Congress will be buffeted by electoral pressures.

The report includes a section on energy and the environment. In this section, SNR Denton predicts that comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation will no longer be an overarching issue as Congress continues to look at ways to lessen U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Instead, it predicts that Congressional focus will likely be on the utilities’ transition to natural gas and in finding ways to address conservation, energy efficiency measures, transmission and smart grid technology issues.

The debate, therefore, will likely move away from mandating fuel choice and toward providing solutions that lessen energy use. The new Congress will also likely have an increased interest in oil and gas production and accelerating nuclear energy development.

SNR Denton also expects that the House of Representatives to increase regulatory oversight of not only the EPA, but the broader Administration as well, including programs created by the stimulus and other programs initiated in the last two years.

Technology is another issue that SNR Denton believes will likely be addressed by the 112th Congress, although a formal or informal plan or agenda for it has not been announced.

The law firm said that although outlook for technology-related legislation is unclear, it is apparent that the prospects for movement of net neutrality legislation in the next Congress are dim, with 90 of 95 public supporters losing their elections.

With significant changes coming to the Energy and Commerce Committee and specifically, the Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee, it will likely be some time before a clearer agenda emerges, the report predicts.

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