A major interstate pipeline group last week called on key Senateand House energy lawmakers to “move early in the new year” oncomprehensive legislation to restructure the electricity industry,and to mirror it after the reforms in the natural gas industry.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) andits members “have a great deal of experience with industryrestructuring, as we have been through it over the last 15 years.There is general consensus that interstate pipelines have becomemore competitive and customer-focused as a result,” wrote INGAAPresident Jerald V. Halvorsen in a Dec. 21 letter to Chairman FrankMurkowski of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Having one clear set of rules for natural gas transmission atthe national level was a crucial component to implementing thesechanges – changes that have resulted in lower prices, new servicesand better reliability for all classes of natural gas customers,”he said.

“We believe that the same types of standards should apply toelectric transmission facilities. Your draft legislation takesimportant steps in this direction. To move to a national electrictransmission grid, it is important to include under FERC authoritythose transmission facilities that are owned by co-ops, municipalutilities and power marketing administrations, which your draftdoes. It is also necessary to clarify which wires are transmissionand which are distribution.”

Giving FERC full jurisdiction over the transmission grid isparamount, Halvorsen told Murkowski. In a separate letter to HouseCommerce Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA), he criticized the bill thatemerged from the Energy and Power Subcommittee in November, sayingit “moves in a more parochial direction that makes it moredifficult to achieve a national, vibrant electric utility market.”He was particularly critical of the bill’s provisions that strippedFERC of regulatory authority over the transmission grid.

INGAA believes the electricity legislation that emerges from theSenate and House should include features such as non-discriminatoryservice, open access and unbundled transmission — which werecentral to restructuring the gas industry. The legislation shouldclearly delineate between the functions of the state and federalgovernment in a restructured power market, Halvorsen said.Susan Parker

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