Hastings blasts Moniz for silence on power marketer issues

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) today took Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to task for failing to respond to his concerns about an agency memo that called on the nation’s four power marketing administrations to invest in transmission upgrades and clean energy and to address cybersecurity.

At issue is a controversial memo that then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu released last year that called on the Bonneville Power Administration, Western Area Power Administration, Southeastern Power Administration and Southwestern Power Administration to leverage partnerships, rate-making power and financing to upgrade power lines and boost reliability and access for renewables.

House members and industry groups like the American Public Power Association have come out in strong opposition, saying the effort threatens to undermine the power marketing administrations’ historical purpose of providing Americans with cheap hydropower.

Hastings said in a letter to Moniz today that his committee sent the letters to the Department of Energy last year and in February to get more information about the memo and its implementation, and those requests “remain almost wholly unfulfilled.”

The lack of answers, he said, is especially troubling because Lauren Azar, Chu’s top adviser on greening the U.S. electric grid, is no longer at the agency. Hastings said he had asked DOE for documents from Azar.

“Given the concise and targeted nature of the committee’s previous requests, the department’s unresponsiveness is disappointing and troubling,” he wrote.

Hastings said it’s critical that DOE not destroy Azar’s documents and asked the agency to explain what steps it was taking to keep intact records, emails and computer hard drives that may be pertinent to his nearly yearlong document request.

Azar quietly left the agency last month, and DOE said Skila Harris, who served as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s first female director and as a special assistant to former Vice President Al Gore, is now serving as senior adviser for the power marketing administrations.

DOE did not comment on the personnel moves in time for publication, but Harris will likely be tasked with addressing bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill over a number of the agency’s programs, including the Chu memo (E&E Daily, Sept. 11).