DOE Electric Bill Destined For Congress in March
The Department of Energy (DOE) said last week that it plans to
send the long-awaited Clinton administration's legislation on
retail choice for electricity customers to Capitol Hill in the
latter half of March.
The measure is expected to be similar in many respects to the
Comprehensive Electricity Competition Plan that the administration
released last year, which called for states to switch to retail
choice by Jan. 1, 2003, endorsed the principles of stranded-cost
recovery and promoted the use of renewable fuels.
Speaking to an Edison Electric Institute (EEI) conference last
month, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said there wouldn't be any
"major" surprises in the legislation, but it "will do a better job
on several key points." It will provide consensus recommendations
to establish an independent organization to ensure the reliability
of the electric grid, develop incentives to promote efficient
distributed generation, and revise federal statutes to promote
competitive markets in regions served by the Tennessee Valley
Authority and the federal power marketing administrations.
The natural gas industry already is anticipating problems with
the DOE bill, especially with the provisions that would mandate
that utilities use a certain percentage of renewable fuels each
year in their generation of electricity. "We think there's several
provisions...that are unfortunate and not in sync with [with the
administration's] pro-natural gas position," said John Sharp, vice
president of federal and state affairs and counsel for the Natural
Gas Supply Association (NGSA). Also, he noted, "it's a very
Sharp believes that if the Energy Department had been able to
write the legislation itself, as opposed to it being part of an
inter-agency effort, it probably would be a "very different bill" -
one that would be more acceptable to the gas industry.
Instead, he likes the restructuring measure proposed by Rep.
Steve Largent (R-OK). "My personal feeling is I think the Largent
bill will be the mover on the House side. Largent's taken a very
good approach in his bill...He's done a very good background survey
and polling of the members to determine what is the type of vehicle
that could get through Congress."
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the new chairman of the House Energy and
Power Subcommittee, has said that restructuring legislation could
be approved in 12-15 months. Sharp noted that both the Senate
Energy Committee and House Commerce Committee, which have
jurisdiction over customer-choice legislation, have put the issue
at the "top of their agendas" this year. That's a "very good signal
that it is very likely that we'll see some very significant
electric restructuring legislation moving in both houses."
©Copyright 1999 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights
reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or
redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of
Intelligence Press, Inc.