Two congressmen and a Clinton Administration official recently weighed in on the future of electric industry deregulation, giving observers an inkling of what they might expect in legislation or policy this year.
Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the ranking minority member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, spoke before the Electric Generation Association (EGA) January 22. Just three days later he introduced S. 1526. The bill (see outline below) calls for full stranded-cost recovery, including decommissioning costs for nuclear plants. He hopes to protect retail wheeling, respect historic jurisdiction between federal and state governments, give states control over local markets, reform the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), and repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA).
Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-CO), chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee, was less specific about his plans, but asked for ideas so that he could meet his "aggressive timetable for pushing legislation this year."
Meanwhile, Charles B. Curtis, deputy secretary, Department of Energy, told members of the American Public Power Association (APPA) that restructuring should be delayed until after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) makes its final rule on the open-access Mega-NOPR, due sometime in April. Initiatives in California, Wisconsin, New York, and Massachusetts also should be given consideration.
"While I have counseled waiting, I do not counsel benign neglect," Curtis said. "The electricity utility industry is our nation's most vital, exercising enormous influence on our standard of living and on the competitiveness of U.S. business and its capacity for jobs creation. . . . We cannot afford a failed experiment on a national scale."