Markup of House Electric Bill Pushed Back
If you made the trip to Capitol Hill or were listening over the
Web last Thursday, your jaw probably dropped a few inches when
Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA) of the House Commerce Committee
announced to a packed hearing room that he was postponing the
scheduled markup on electric restructuring legislation until this
week. At press time Friday, the committee hadn't yet set a new date
for the markup, but an aide said the goal was to do it this week.
The delay disappointed energy executives, lobbyists and
regulators, many of whom still are holding out hope that Congress
will pass a comprehensive restructuring measure before it adjourns
in October. Whether this comes to pass is all up to Bliley and his
Bliley said he made the decision to delay markup after meeting
separately with Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Chairman Joe
Barton (R-TX) of the Energy and Power Subcommittee on Wednesday. He
realized that if he had pressed forward with markup as scheduled
last Thursday, the "outcome [would be] very much in doubt." He also
postponed the markup partly out of deference to Markey, who was
absent due to a death in his family.
Both Barton and Markey, who have been at odds with Bliley over
the particulars of House restructuring legislation, expressed their
willingness to "sit down and work with me" in the week ahead to
achieve a bill that "we can all support," Bliley said. "Having said
that, I'm going to set the bill aside today. We will come back to
it next week," he told the crowded committee room, which was
prepared for a day-long markup session.
The key issue that Bliley and Barton disagree on is the extent
of jurisdiction FERC should have over the interstate electric
transmission grid. Specifically, Bliley favors expanding the
Commission's oversight, while Barton would prefer to keep it in
check. In fact, Bliley had planned to introduce a 128-page
substitute amendment addressing the issue during the scheduled
committee markup of the Electricity Competition and Reliability
Act, which was approved by Barton's subcommittee last October.
Also, Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) has prepared a substitute
amendment that calls for changes to a number of sections of the
subcommittee bill: regional transmission organizations (RTOs),
retail reciprocity, the Tennessee Valley Authority and on
grandfathering states that have introduced competition to their
Obviously frustrated on Thursday, Bliley said it was "vitally
important" for the House to pass a comprehensive electric bill now
to ensure the reliability of the transmission grid. "I mean we've
had outages already. Silicon Valley [reports] that when they have
one of these rolling outages it costs them anywhere from $50-$100
million a day. That's huge."
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