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Murkowski Plans Hearing into Power Price Spikes

Murkowski Plans Hearing into Power Price Spikes

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) last week said he will hold a hearing into the price spikes in the Midwest electricity market after the Senate returns from its recess in September.

Murkowski "understands that FERC is already collecting data" on this issue. "He said it gets us into a portion of electricity deregulation. He thinks there's a need for a hearing," noted Tina Kreisher, a committee spokeswoman. She indicated the committee probably would ask FERC to testify at the hearing.

The Alaskan lawmaker's announcement, which was made during the committee's business meeting, triggered a complaint from Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR) that Murkowski had failed to take any action on comprehensive electricity restructuring bill during the legislative session. Even though restructuring is at a "dead end" in the House this year, Bumpers "wants a [committee] markup of his bill. He wants a vote on the Senate floor" before he retires at the end of the year, she said.

When the hearing on the price spikes is held, Bumpers said he wants "information available on what would have happened to the companies [that] experienced price spikes if his bill had been in place," Kreisher noted. Murkowski agreed to the request.

The price spikes occurred in the final week of June in the Midwest power market, with electric spot market prices jumping from $30 per MWh to $7,000 MWh. A prolonged heat wave, forced generation outages and transmission constraints were cited as the primary causes of the price spikes. Industrial customers, however, contend that power marketers took advantage of the bad situation and gouged them on prices.

Susan Parker

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