Perspectives: Unofficial White House update

I am going to do my best to be apolitical in this editor’s note and state “Just the facts, ma’am,” as was attributed to fictional Detective Sergeant Joe Friday in the television series Dragnet.

The editors of Hydro Review have been closely following developments as U.S. President Donald J. Trump begins his term in office with nominations to fill a variety of important positions within the government. As of Feb. 16, 13 of the 23 nominees who require Senate confirmation had been confirmed (if I didn’t miss any): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Department of Transportation Elaine Chao, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of Education Elisabeth DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, Small Business Administration Chief Linda McMahon, and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney.

None of the above hold a particular relevance to the hydroelectric power industry, however. The ones we’ve been keeping an eye on – whose work will touch on hydropower – include Secretary of Interior (Ryan Zinke), Secretary of Energy (Rick Perry), and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (Scott Pruitt). Pruitt’s confirmation was being voted on as we went to press on this issue.

Other political developments we have been following with interest include:

  • America First Energy Plan, which says “The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources” but does not mention hydropower
  • Nomination of a new Supreme Court justice, with President Trump choosing Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • The need to appoint new commissioners for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission following former FERC chair Norman Bay’s early resignation (leaving FERC with only two commissioners, one of whose terms expires in June)
  • Executive Order instructing relevant federal departments and agencies to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for infrastructure projects deemed to be a high priority (dams were not mentioned)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP), a trade agreement designed to address existing and newly emerging obstacles to U.S. exports, which Trump signed a presidential memorandum to withdraw the U.S. from

Finally, there is another issue of concern for hydropower that President Trump has yet to address: the Clean Power Plan. In a press briefing on Jan. 31, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer fielded a question from the press about whether Trump still plans to revoke the plan, as he indicated during his presidential campaign. Spicer said, “I think the President has made very clear with respect to energy policy that he wants to review all of the options that we have to use our natural resources to better the country in terms of wind power, solar, clean coal. We’re in the process of reviewing all of our energy policies. … We don’t have an Energy Secretary confirmed right now … I hope once that’s done, we will have further updates on energy.”

Keep watching our website, particularly our Regulation & Policy topic center at www.hydroworld.com/regulation-and-policy.html, for the latest updates on these issues of concern. And plan to attend HydroVision International June 27-30, where expert panelists will discuss a variety of issues in a seven-session panel presentation track on Policies and Regulations.

Elizabeth Ingram

Managing Editor

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