Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas


May 15, 2013
Press Release

Washington, DC– Today Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22) announced that the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved his legislation to ensure power remains on during an emergency crisis.  Without amendments, H.R. 271 was approved by the full committee.  The bill would allow America’s power companies to comply with federal orders to maintain grid reliability during a power emergency without facing lawsuits or penalties for possibly violating potentially conflicting federal environmental laws. A similar version of this legislation was passed by voice vote in the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress.

Congressman Pete Olson said, "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. 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."

"This measure takes the necessary steps to ensure America’s power companies are able to comply with DOE emergency orders to maintain grid reliability without facing penalties for violating potentially conflicting environmental laws. Pete’s 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," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton

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 three 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. 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 exceeding the 877 hour operating limit and was forced to settle the lawsuit at significant expense.

Olson is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.


Media Contact: Melissa Kelly