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Red, White, and Ready: The Patriotic Push for Energy Legislation

After 10 years of waiting, some experts say a Republican-controlled Congress and a patriotic mood will make the difference in passing energy legislation this year.
Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 2003

plug on the energy bill. I have seen no evidence in this Congress that we would be best served by reversing that decision now.

Is repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act a priority in this Congress?

Repeal of PUHCA would be an unwise move. Those who favor repeal apparently care little for the consumer or the investor or are ignorant of the Act's importance, or both. Enron provided us with a prime example of why we not only need PUHCA in place but also need to shore up enforcement. Deregulation and non-enforcement of PUHCA by the Securities and Exchange Commission helped create Enron, which would prove to be nothing more than a drop in the bucket compared to the torrent we could face if Congress pulls the plug on PUHCA.

As large dividend producers, utilities generally back repeal of the dividend tax. Where do you stand on this, and what are the chances of repeal?

I'm not on the Ways and Means Committee, so I haven't really developed an opinion on these matters. I will note, however, that these experiments with deregulation that the Bush administration is so fond of have left many in the utility industry and their investors with so few dividends that it hardly seems worth the effort to repeal the tax.

Will Congress likely get involved with FERC's proposed standard market design, and if so, how?

My Republican colleagues seem to be largely in favor of FERC's misguided rule on SMD. This rule essentially tramples states' rights and makes local utilities bid for power on their own transmission lines against behemoths to serve their customers first. Many low-cost utilities and their state regulators strongly oppose this rule, and right-minded people should as well.

How would an energy bill promote repair and expansion of our energy infrastructure?

If my Republican colleagues have their way and pass legislation that has an electricity title that resembles the one currently before the Committee on Energy and Commerce, you can rest assured that it will undercut or outright repeal a number of existing consumer protections under the Federal Power Act, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, and the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. A lack of balance and stability will ultimately undermine needed long-term investment in the electricity sector.

What would you like to tell our readers about the direction of energy policy in the United States?

We need a more balanced energy policy than that currently under discussion. We cannot dig, drill, and detonate our way to a sound energy future. And without a more bipartisan approach than we have seen so far this year, it will not be possible to enact the balanced policy we need.

"It is so important that in a comprehensive way we signal to all of the interested parties that as a country we do have our act together, that we have commonly defined and accepted goals and are going to move towards those goals with all due haste."

The 107th Congress failed to send a comprehensive energy bill to President