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Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DOYLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

The bill before us today is the result of efforts from both sides of the aisle to find a solution that really works for industry, government, and our environment.

Currently, the Department of Energy has the authority to issue a ``must-run'' order to a power provider in emergency cases to protect grid reliability. At the same time, environmental laws and regulations could prohibit a company from complying with a DOE must-run order. So a company is left in the position of choosing which law it violates--environmental rules or an emergency order from the Department of Energy.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, this has happened in the past. During the California energy crisis, and as recently as 2005 in Virginia, a company was issued emergency orders by the Department of Energy. To comply with those orders, the company was temporarily in noncompliance with environmental law. Therefore, after complying with an emergency must-run order, the company was both fined and forced to settle a citizen lawsuit. If it happens once, twice, or 50 times, it will never be proper for the Federal Government to put a company in the position of choosing which law to violate.

Reliability concerns for our electric grid are real, and power plant retirements are being announced nearly every week. In June, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation issued their summer reliability assessment. They told us that reserves in Texas are coming up short to meet peak demand and that the California reserve margin will be extremely tight.

So this bill will fix a clear conflict in Federal laws with a narrow, targeted approach. This bill will ensure that the Department of Energy will have the ability to keep the lights on while still protecting the environment.

The bill before us simply clarifies that if an emergency order issued pursuant to section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act may result in such a conflict with an environmental law or regulation, it shall expire not later than 90 days after issuance. This is to ensure that DOE continues to have the necessary authority to ``keep the lights on'' in true emergencies.

It then gives DOE the opportunity to renew or reissue such an order for an additional 90-day period after consulting with the appropriate Federal agencies and including conditions submitted by such agencies to mitigate adverse environmental impacts. DOE may exclude a recommended condition from the order if it determines the condition would prevent the order from adequately addressing the emergency.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is the result of many months of work with members on both sides of the Energy and Commerce Committee. It is supported by both the chairman and the ranking member of the committee. And I ask my colleagues to support it also.

I want to thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Olson). It has been a pleasure to work with him on this piece of legislation. It is my hope that all our colleagues also support this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


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