Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) lastweek said he will hold a hearing into the price spikes in theMidwest electricity market after the Senate returns from its recessin September.

Murkowski “understands that FERC is already collecting data” onthis issue. “He said it gets us into a portion of electricityderegulation. He thinks there’s a need for a hearing,” noted TinaKreisher, a committee spokeswoman. She indicated the committeeprobably would ask FERC to testify at the hearing.

The Alaskan lawmaker’s announcement, which was made during thecommittee’s business meeting, triggered a complaint from Sen. DaleBumpers (D-AR) that Murkowski had failed to take any action oncomprehensive electricity restructuring bill during the legislativesession. Even though restructuring is at a “dead end” in the Housethis year, Bumpers “wants a [committee] markup of his bill. Hewants a vote on the Senate floor” before he retires at the end ofthe year, she said.

When the hearing on the price spikes is held, Bumpers asked thathe be provided with “information on what would have happened to thecompanies [that] experienced price spikes if his bill had been inplace,” Kreisher noted. Murkowski agreed to the request.

The price spikes occurred in the final week of June in theMidwest power market, with electric spot market prices jumping from$30 per MWh to $7,000 MWh. A prolonged heat wave, forcedgeneration outages and transmission constraints were cited as theprimary causes of the price spikes. Industrial customers, however,contend that power marketers took advantage of the bad situationand gouged them on prices.

©Copyright 1998 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. Thepreceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, inwhole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent ofIntelligence Press,Inc.