House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Help Keep the Lights On During Emergencies

May 22, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved H.R. 271, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act by voice vote. 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 will amend the Federal Power Act so that power providers are not forced to choose between conflicting laws. Resolving this conflict will reduce uncertainty and help ensure the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

"As we head into hot summer months, power grids in states like Texas and others across the country are being warned about reliability concerns. My bill will simply fix an unfortunate glitch in federal law that forces power generators to choose which federal law they must violate - a DOE emergency order to maintain power or environmental laws that expose them to citizen lawsuits,” said Olson. “I thank my colleagues for their widespread bipartisan support for this bill. It's heartening to know that we can find common ground when working to protect the public from dangerous blackouts. I urge the Senate to pass this bill quickly so we maintain a reliable power supply for all Americans."

Supporting the legislation, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "This legislation will allow power companies to keep the lights on during times of emergencies without being penalized. I thank Mr. Olson for his leadership and I urge the Senate to take up this commonsense measure."

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