The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee debated yesterdaywhether to get themselves off the hook for this summer by enactingstopgap electric reliability legislation or go for the gold of acomprehensive electric restructuring bill.

The only decision made was to make some decisions next Wednesdayat a second session devoted to legislation affecting the electricpower industry. Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) attempted to soundout committee members on a long list of controversial issues,including the federal versus state role in oversight of arestructured industry, mandatory RTOs, and repeal of existing lawsregulating public utilities.

Murkowski said he supported “a comprehensive bill that willaddress reliability,” adding, “nothing we enact will alleviate anyreliability problems we will face this summer and next winter. Ourexisting generation capability and transmission capacity are whatthey are. Nothing that can be done by legislation will alter thatin the near-term.”

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said at the beginning of yesterday’ssession that committee members had made “substantial progress” onreliability issues and there appeared to be “a consensus on thecommittee and the utility industry” behind the proposals in a billintroduced by Sen. Slade Gorton, (R-WA) and co-sponsored byBingaman and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). The bill would create anew, national reliability organization to set the rules for thenational transmission grid. “I hope we can report Gorton’s bill(the Electric Reliability 2000 Act, S.2071) before we beginexperiencing problems this summer,” Bingaman said.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) said the committee should either pass”a regulatory” measure to deal with reliability, without loading onany other issues, or a comprehensive bill.

©Copyright 2000 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.