House Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Electric Reliability

August 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved H.R. 4273, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act. The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), will ensure America’s power companies are able to comply with Department of Energy emergency orders to maintain grid reliability without facing penalties for violating potentially conflicting environmental laws.

The Federal Power Act authorizes the Department of Energy to order electric generating facilities to continue operating in order to avoid potential reliability-related emergencies. However, compliance with such an emergency order could trigger a violation of environmental laws and regulations, potentially exposing the generator to penalties and lawsuits. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation makes an important clarification to the Federal Power Act so that utilities will not be subject to penalties when working with DOE to keep the lights on.

“States are being warned by electricity regulators that reserve margins could dip dangerously low. Extreme hot weather across the US and a massive blackout in India demonstrates the dangers of power shortages,” said Olson. “My bill fixes an important glitch in federal law that puts power generators in the unenviable position of choosing which federal law they will violate - a DOE emergency order or environmental laws that expose them to citizen lawsuits. The bipartisan support this bill has received is proof that we can find common ground when working to address a critical glitch in federal law, protect the environment and provide a reliable energy supply to all Americans."

“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,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), discussing the measure as it moved through committee. “The potential conflict puts the electric grid at risk and puts generators in the unreasonable position of having to choose between keeping the lights on and meeting their environmental obligations. It’s simply not fair and must be resolved, and I commend Mr. Olson's leadership for working on this commonsense solution.”

Watch Olson’s floor statement in support of the bill here:

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