Boring is much better than controversial, because honestly, these critters can get up to all kinds of hijinks when they're out of your sight in Washington, DC. Some of the more "controversial" stuff proposed earlier didn't make it into the bills that are currently being marked up, such as the "APPROVAL Act" bills introduced by the Arkansas delegation to neuter Section 1222 of the last energy policy act. Went nowhere. Nothing but hot air intended to appease angry voters. What a disappointment!
Anyhow, what IS in the bills that's of interest? Oh, there are a few things...
The House bill contains a section establishing an Office of Compliance Assistance and Public Participation within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This figurehead shall:
SEC. 4211. FERC OFFICE OF COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION.
Section 319 of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 825q–1) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘SEC. 319. OFFICE OF COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION.
‘‘(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is established within the Commission an Office of Compliance Assistance and Public Participation (referred to in this section as the ‘Office’). The Office shall be headed by a Director.
‘‘(b) DUTIES OF DIRECTOR.--
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The Director of the Office
shall promote improved compliance with Commission rules and orders by—
‘‘(A) making recommendations to the Commission regarding—
‘‘(i) the protection of consumers;
‘‘(ii) market integrity and support for the development of responsible market behavior;
‘‘(iii) the application of Commission rules and orders in a manner that ensures that—
‘‘(I) rates and charges for, or in connection with, the transmission or sale of electric energy subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission shall be just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory or preferential; and
‘‘(II) markets for such transmission and sale of electric energy are not impaired and consumers are not damaged; and
‘‘(iv) the impact of existing and proposed Commission rules and orders on small entities, as defined in section 601 of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the Regulatory Flexibility Act);
‘‘(B) providing entities subject to regulation by the Commission the opportunity to obtain timely guidance for compliance with Com- mission rules and orders; and
‘‘(C) providing information to the Commission and Congress to inform policy with respect to energy issues under the jurisdiction of the Commission.
‘‘(2) REPORTS AND GUIDANCE.—The Director shall, as the Director determines appropriate, issue reports and guidance to the Commission and to entities subject to regulation by the Commission, regarding market practices, proposing improvements in Commission monitoring of market practices, and addressing potential improvements to both industry and Commission practices.
‘‘(3) OUTREACH.—The Director shall promote
improved compliance with Commission rules and orders through outreach, publications, and, where appropriate, direct communication with entities regulated by the Commission.’’.
The Senate bill has a couple of items of interest, including a "Transmission Ombudsperson" who, unlike the House's FERC minion, serves only the industry, smoothing things over for companies who want to build transmission (or at least that's how the Senate thinks it will work).
- (b) TRANSMISSION OMBUDSPERSON.—
(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—To enhance and ensure the reliability of the electric grid, there is established within the Council on Environmental Quality the position of Transmission Ombudsperson (referred to in this subsection as the ‘‘Ombudsperson’’), to provide a unified point of contact for—
- (A) resolving interagency or intra-agency issues or delays with respect to electric transmission infrastructure permits; and
(B) receiving and resolving complaints
from parties with outstanding or in-process applications relating to electric transmission infrastructure.
(2) DUTIES.—The Ombudsperson shall—
(A) establish a process for--
(i) facilitating the permitting process for performance of maintenance and upgrades to electric transmission lines on Federal land and non-Federal land, with a special emphasis on facilitating access for immediate maintenance, repair, and vegetation management needs;
(ii) resolving complaints filed with the
Ombudsperson with respect to in-process electric transmission infrastructure permits; and
(iii) issuing recommended resolutions
to address the complaints filed with the
(B) hear, compile, and share any com-
plaints filed with Ombudsperson relating to in-process electric transmission infrastructure permits.
Hey, but wait, perhaps if the section codifying Obama's "Interagency Rapid Response Transmission Team" (RRTT or "er-tit" as we dubbed it) makes it through, Ombudsperson will have more to do! The er-tit is supposed to "expedite and improve the permitting process for electric transmission infrastructure on Federal land and non-Federal land." Again, very few federal transmission permits, but the er-tit is supposed to whip the federal agencies to approve the few permits they do have jurisdiction over faster, faster, faster! The er-tit consists of representatives from a laundry list of federal agencies, but has absolutely NOBODY watching out for the interests of consumers or landowners. Full-speed ahead for the er-tit and its industry flunkies! I shouldn't laugh... the original incarnation of the er-tit rammed through a federal process for the Susquehanna Roseland transmission line in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that cost ratepayers $60M, plus interest over the next 40 years, to pay off the demands of former Interior Secretary Salazar. Let's hope the new er-tit behaves better.
So, anything can happen in the Congressional energy world, as the busy little bees try to add things (bad things? good things?) into these energy bills before the recess. How come the consumers don't have a lobbyist working for their interests on Capitol Hill? It's up to you to babysit these Congress critters!