If you made the trip to Capitol Hill or were listening over theWeb last Thursday, your jaw probably dropped a few inches whenChairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA) of the House Commerce Committeeannounced to a packed hearing room that he was postponing thescheduled markup on electric restructuring legislation until thisweek. At press time Friday, the committee hadn’t yet set a new datefor the markup, but an aide said the goal was to do it this week.

The delay disappointed energy executives, lobbyists andregulators, many of whom still are holding out hope that Congresswill pass a comprehensive restructuring measure before it adjournsin October. Whether this comes to pass is all up to Bliley and hiscommittee.

Bliley said he made the decision to delay markup after meetingseparately with Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Chairman JoeBarton (R-TX) of the Energy and Power Subcommittee on Wednesday. Herealized that if he had pressed forward with markup as scheduledlast Thursday, the “outcome [would be] very much in doubt.” He alsopostponed the markup partly out of deference to Markey, who wasabsent due to a death in his family.

Both Barton and Markey, who have been at odds with Bliley overthe particulars of House restructuring legislation, expressed theirwillingness to “sit down and work with me” in the week ahead toachieve a bill that “we can all support,” Bliley said. “Having saidthat, I’m going to set the bill aside today. We will come back toit next week,” he told the crowded committee room, which wasprepared for a day-long markup session.

The key issue that Bliley and Barton disagree on is the extentof jurisdiction FERC should have over the interstate electrictransmission grid. Specifically, Bliley favors expanding theCommission’s oversight, while Barton would prefer to keep it incheck. In fact, Bliley had planned to introduce a 128-pagesubstitute amendment addressing the issue during the scheduledcommittee markup of the Electricity Competition and ReliabilityAct, which was approved by Barton’s subcommittee last October.

Also, Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) has prepared a substituteamendment that calls for changes to a number of sections of thesubcommittee bill: regional transmission organizations (RTOs),retail reciprocity, the Tennessee Valley Authority and ongrandfathering states that have introduced competition to theirretail markets.

Obviously frustrated on Thursday, Bliley said it was “vitallyimportant” for the House to pass a comprehensive electric bill nowto ensure the reliability of the transmission grid. “I mean we’vehad outages already. Silicon Valley [reports] that when they haveone of these rolling outages it costs them anywhere from $50-$100million a day. That’s huge.”

Susan Parker

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