Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

OLSON GAINS SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVAL FOR ELECTRIC RELIABILITY BILL

June 7, 2012
Press Release

Washington, DC– The House Energy and Power Subcommittee today gave its unanimous support to Rep. Pete Olson’s (R-Sugar Land) bipartisan bill, H.R. 4273, which 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 violating potentially conflicting federal environmental laws.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said, "The bill addresses the basic principle that the federal government should not be able to direct a generator to operate for emergency purposes and then turn around and fine them for doing so. The potential conflict puts the electric grid at risk and puts generators in the inequitable and unenviable position of having to choose between keeping the lights on and meeting their environmental obligations. It’s simply not fair and must be resolved, which is why I am pleased that our colleagues have developed bipartisan legislation to do just that."

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield said, "This bill resolves a conflict between the Federal Power Act and environmental laws and regulations that, if left unresolved, could have serious implications for the reliability of the nation’s electric grid. I want to commend my friends and colleagues – on both sides of the aisle – for their efforts on this critical piece of bipartisan legislation." 

Congressman Pete Olson said, "Texas was put on notice to expect rolling blackouts this summer due to insufficient electric reserves to meet peak demand. Emergency orders are not issued lightly andonly under extreme power reliability scenarios. This bill is about keeping the power on for Texans and all Americans. My colleagues and I are committed to finding a solution that protects energy consumers, the environment and those who provide the power. I'm confident this bill achieves that goal and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move it forward."

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. 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.

Texas was recently issued a reliability warning for this summer by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), which is responsible for the reliability of the power grid in the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico. NERC stated that Texas demand is rising faster than power resources.

Olson is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Click here to view his opening statement from today's hearing on H.R. 4273.

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Media Contact: Melissa Kelly

202-225-5951