The Energy and Commerce Committee today advanced H.R. 271, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act. The commonsense legislation, introduced by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), will ensure America's power companies are able to comply with Department of Energy emergency orders to maintain grid reliability without facing penalties for violating potentially conflicting environmental laws. The committee approved the measure by voice vote.
The Federal Power Act authorizes the Department of Energy to order electric generating facilities to continue operating in order to avoid potential reliability-related emergencies. However, compliance with such an emergency order could trigger a violation of environmental laws and regulations, potentially exposing the generator to penalties and lawsuits. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation makes an important clarification to the Federal Power Act so that utilities will not be subject to penalties when working with DOE to keep the lights on.
"Texas and other states are being warned by electricity regulators that reserve margins could dip dangerously low this summer. My bill fixes an unfortunate glitch in federal law that puts power generators in the unenviable position of choosing which federal law they will violate - a DOE emergency order to provide power or environmental laws that expose them to citizen lawsuits," said Olson. "The bipartisan support for this bill is proof that we can find common ground when working to address a critical fault in federal law, protect the environment and provide a reliable energy supply to all Americans."
Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, "This is a commonsense fix that will help keep the lights on in times of emergencies. This legislation passed this committee and the full House last year, and I am hopeful we'll be able to get this through the Senate and to the president this time."