Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson made aspirited request to a host of gas industry executives yesterday,asking for their help to pass a federal electric restructuring billbefore the end of this year. Richardson, addressing attendees ofthe Natural Gas Roundtable in Washington D.C., said the gasindustry stands to gain handsomely if electric restructuring getspassed as soon as possible.

Speaking to the full audience at the University Club, Richardsonsaid “My main message [to the gas industry] is help us withelectricity restructuring. Its in your interests and you need tohelp a little more than you have been.” After the Roundtableconcluded, Richardson said the most effective ways for the gasindustry to help are through lobbying efforts and through directcommunication with Congressmen.

As a demonstration of the rewards the gas industry may receivefrom electric restructuring, Richardson cited Energy InformationAgency (EIA) statistics that projected more than 60% of newelectric utility generating capacity built in the next five yearswill be powered by natural gas. He also said the EIA expectsoverall energy consumption to increase 25% through 2010.

“In addition to the anticipated construction of gas-firedcentral power generation stations, this legislation will encouragethe distributed generation of combined heat and power. Bothrepresent big opportunities for [the gas industry]; opportunitiesthat will only increase in a restructured environment.”

Even without successfully passing a power restructuring bill,The Clinton Administration is doing what it can to support the useof natural gas, Richardson said. Currently the DOE and theAdministration are jointly working on a plan to expand [thecountry’s] gas supply by as much as 6 Tcf by 2010. The DOE has alsoformed federal land technology partnership with the Bureau of LandManagement to provide technical solutions for increasing access topublic lands for oil and gas development.

Yet more opportunity can be gained through a federallyrestructured electricity market. Despite the fact that 24 stateshave instituted their own electric retail competition programs,Richardson said federal legislation would: remove federalimpediments that have hamstrung competition; improve reliability;provide a more efficient competitive interstate transmissionsystem; ensure regional power markets are sufficiently competitive;and protect public benefit programs.

Because this has been such a hot issue, Richardson said hebelieved the window is still open to pass legislation. But even headmitted the window is closing quickly. “My main message to[Commerce Committee] Chairman Bliley (R-VA) and [Energy and PowerSubcommittee] Chairman Barton (R-TX)… is ‘Look. We’re losingtime. I am challenging you to move ahead. Lets get a bill passedthis year. [Get the bill] through your committee this year.Otherwise, we’ll lose the window.'”

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