The House Energy and Commerce Committee today gave its unanimous support to Rep. Pete Olson's (TX-22) bipartisan bill, H.R. 4273, which would allow America's power companies to comply with federal orders to maintain grid reliability during a power emergency without facing lawsuits or penalties for violating potentially conflicting federal environmental laws.
Congressman Pete Olson said, "I'm pleased with the bipartisan support this bill has received. This is proof that we can find common ground when working to address a critical glitch in federal law and provide a reliable energy supply to all Americans. I thank my colleagues on the committee for working with me to fix this problem and keep the power running in an emergency."
Relevant Prior Occurrences
In 2005,Mirant (now GenOn) faced a dilemma when the Department of Energy (DOE) ordered the Potomac River Generating Station to continue operations in violation of environmental laws to protect reliability for Washington, D.C. Mirant complied and was later fined by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a three hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard violation.
In 2001, Mirant's Potrero Power Plant in the San Francisco area was issued an emergency order by DOE to ensure reliability during an electricity crisis. Mirant obtained written approval from local and federal regulators, who allowed the plant to operate for more than 877 hours. Yet, Mirant still faced a citizen lawsuit by the City of San Francisco and environmental groups for exceeding the 877 hour operating limit and was forced to settle the lawsuit at significant expense.
Recently, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), which is responsible for the reliability of the power grid in the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico, issued Texas a reliability warning for this summer. NERC stated that Texas demand is rising faster than power resources.
"With the notorious Texas summer and its 100 degree days upon us, any power outage will shut off air conditioning, threatening our health and safety, especially when it comes to the elderly and infants. This legislation helps ensure that power can continue to flow when it is most needed," Olson concluded.
Olson is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.