House lawmakers to FERC: Slow down

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A key House Republican made his opposition official to the Department of Energy’s controversial plan to boost coal and nuclear plants last week in a bipartisan letter urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take its time as it considers the proposal.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, wrote that FERC should address questions of how different energy resources contribute to the grid through “existing proceedings” rather than by making a “sweeping, top-down decision in the near term.”

The proposal from Secretary Rick Perry would reward coal and nuclear plants in certain markets for maintaining a 90-day supply of fuel on site by allowing them to fully recover their costs.

“Again, if changes are needed in these markets, they should be done only after careful deliberation and consultation in a way that reflects the individual needs of regions throughout the country. Any changes must also be technology-neutral and reflect the fact that all sources of energy are susceptible to natural or even manmade events of one kind or another,” wrote Olson, along with the subcommittee’s top Democrat, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois.

Many stakeholders have worried that FERC’s adherence to the 60-day timeline proposed by DOE could mean a rushed proceeding, but the independent agency has stuck to its guns, with Chairman Neil Chatterjee saying recently the agency plans to announce what action it will take by Dec. 11 (Greenwire, Nov. 1).

That action, however, could take many forms, including starting fresh with a new rulemaking or convening technical conferences, which could extend the process and allow for more thorough consideration.

Democrats in Congress have generally opposed Perry’s proposal while Republican views have been more mixed; the loudest voices of support have been lawmakers from coal states who would welcome the help for ailing plants in their districts, but other Republicans — such as Olson — have expressed reservations about hastily moving to prop up coal and nuclear.