Over the past quarter-century, the electric utility industry has undergone oil embargoes, economic recessions, increasing regulatory complexity, and great advances in technology. Perhaps the two...
Congress is still scratching the surface on electric competition.
August in Washington. Traffic thins out, but not the gridlock. For each of the past seven years, there's been an energy bill lurking somewhere in the hallways of the Russell or Longworth congressional buildings.
This summer, the Fortnightly asked some staffers and lobbyists on Capitol Hill to rate the chances for passing an energy bill before Congress left for recess.
One Senate staffer, speaking on background, voiced confidence that a bill would emerge from the conference committee that began deliberations June 26 with 70 televised opening statements from the conferees.
But another insider saw the issue not as whether Congress will act, but if it ought to at all:
"There's great political cover, in having something like this on the shelf."
1996: The sound of glass not breaking.
Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.) introduces The Electricity Consumers' Power to Choose Act of 1996 in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 11. He says he aims to "shatter the last government-protected monopoly in the country."
1997: Sorting through the pieces.
Fortnightly reports there were four new electric restructuring bills in Congress that year. Tom Dennis of Southern California Edison says at the time, "I don't see legislation passing in the United States Congress in 1997 and signed by the President of the United States … I think this issue is enormously complex. It's going to take a lot of time to understand all the pieces."
1998: How do you define "beginning?"
At the 21st hearing on electric restructuring, Rep. Dan Schaefer, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, tells the Fortnightly that the two-day proceedings were the "beginning" of developing consensus on legislation.
1999: Rose-colored glasses.
"We can have a Rose Garden ceremony [after presidential signing of energy legislation] if it's not too cold," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) tells a group of consumer advocates. "And a lot of you folks will be invited … it will be a happy day."
2000: Too much choice?
Twenty-five legislative proposals are pending before the 106th Congress in January, all having to do with electric industry restructuring.
2001: Somewhere out in the "way beyond."
President George W. Bush sends his energy strategy to Congress:
"While I strongly believe we ought to explore for natural gas and hydrocarbons without destroying our environment, and I believe we can do so in Alaska, it's important for the American people to understand that we're talking way beyond just one single issue that seems to dominate the landscape here in Washington, D.C.," Bush said.
2002: Still getting acquainted.
"It's all part of the get-to-know-you process," says Rep. Billy Tauzin's (R-La.) spokesman Ken Johnson. Tauzin remains very optimistic that a final bill will be struck and sent to the White House for President Bush's signature before Congress adjourns, he says.
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