Murkowski Proposes Summer Reliability Fixes to DOE
Rather than "blaming just about everyone and everything" for the
reliability problems on the electric transmission grid, Senate
Energy Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) last week urged Energy
Secretary Bill Richardson to take "immediate and meaningful action"
to address the situation in the short term, while Congress tries to
work out a longer term solution.
Although "it is too late to instantly reverse the cumulative
effects of seven years of bad energy policy" by the Clinton
administration, "it is not too late to take some meaningful action
to protect consumers this summer and to begin to provide for the
long term," Murkowski, an avowed foe of the administration's energy
policy, said in a letter to Richardson on July 10.
For starters, he called on Richardson to coordinate the actions
of other federal agencies - particularly the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Interior - "to ensure
that they do not further damage electric reliability." Moreover,
Murkowski proposed that the Department of Energy (DOE) send a
"directed rulemaking" to FERC giving the agency the authority to
immediately respond to reliability problems. Under the DOE
Organization Act, "you have the statutory authority to direct FERC
to take action. You should use it."
Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978
(PURPA), Murkowski reminded DOE it has the authority to order
electric reliability councils and "any federal agency" to "examine
and report" back to it on reliability issues. Also under PURPA,
"you have authority.....to develop and recommend electric
reliability standards to the industry 'to adequately and reliably
serve the needs of electric consumers.' Have you done so? If not,
Rather than pinning the reliability problems on Congress for its
failure to pass restructuring legislation yet, "it would be more
helpful to consumers and our economy for you to lead the formation
of an administration-wide task force to develop a coordinated and
effective strategy to ensure that the generation and transmission
we need to power our growing economy will be built," Murkowski
wrote to Richardson.
Ironically, the senator failed to heed his own advice about
"blaming" others for the problems with electric generation supply
and the transmission grid. He cited a laundry list of actions by
the administration that have "harmed" the power market, including
FERC's delay in "making crucial determinations on the
rate-of-return on transmission for more than three years;" the
delay in the construction of "new generation, even extremely clean
natural gas-fired generation," because of the "stringent
requirements" of the Clean Air Act; and the failure of DOE and FERC
to penalize utilities for taking unauthorized power from the grid.
It "is these actions and the other energy policy failures of
this administrations over the past seven years that have led us to
where we are this summer," Murkowski told Richardson. The "six
steps you announced this spring to address this summer's
reliability problems will do nothing meaningful to ensure that the
lights will stay on." As a result, he said "we have already seen
the electric power system stretched to the limit and beyond on hot
days " in the Northeast, the Northwest and in California.
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