Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas


May 9, 2012

Washington, DC- Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) today addressed the House Energy and Commerce Committee to urge passage of H.R. 4273, his bipartisan legislation that amends the Federal Power Act to clarify that when an electric utility complies with a Department of Energy order to generate electricity in order to prevent a reliability emergency, the generator will not be considered in violation of conflicting environmental laws. Original co-sponsors of H.R. 4273: Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Lee Terry (R-NE), Gene Green (D-TX), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX).

"As most everyone knows, it gets very hot in Texas in the summer.  If the power is shut off, air conditioning goes off, and lives will be at risk, particularly among the elderly and the young," Rep. Olson said. "Telling utilities on the one hand to generate power and on the other that they will be sued for generating power is only inviting a tragedy.   This legislation has bipartisan support because it simply ensures a common sense solution to protect grid reliability when it is most needed."

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 3 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. In order to ensure that the plant could operate as needed to preserve reliability, 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 exceedance of the 877 hour operating limit, and was forced to settle the lawsuit at significant expense.


Media Contact: Melissa Kelly