Will inaction in the Senate and House prompt FERC to move ahead?
About 36 bills with the word "electric" in them were introduced in the 105th Congress. According to Capitol Hill and industry association staff, the 106th Congress, officially begun Jan. 6, appears likely to see fewer restructuring bills, but steadfast champions.
Likelier still are developments outside of Congress that will shape energy policy and perhaps beat legislators to the punch. That is especially true of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which planned early this year to meet with state regulators on reliability and independent regional transmission organizations, or RTOs.
In the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) has promised to hold electric restructuring hearings and introduce "chairman's mark" legislation. In the House Commerce Committee, Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.) presides over his last Congress as committee chair, meaning that there's a good chance of hearings in that forum as well.
The retirement of Senate energy committee ranking minority member Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) and House Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.) also promises to bring new players into the fray. Unclear is whether the replacements will be as strong proponents of renewable energy as Schaefer or Bumpers.
At press time, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) stepped into Schaefer's subcommittee seat. In January, J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) who has a long history of working with utility issues, emerged as the new House speaker to replace Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.). Livingston resigned during presidential impeachment proceedings after admitting to marital infidelities.