DEMOCRATS PUSH FOR ELECTRICITY RELIABILITY LEGISLATION TO PREVENT FUTURE BLACKOUTS

For Immediate Release:

July 20, 2004

Contact:Jodi Seth
202-225-3641

Washington, D.C. - After nearly a year of urging the Republican leadership in the House to consider electricity reliability legislation to prevent another massive blackout, Democrats today launched a discharge petition to try to force consideration of H.R. 3004, the “Electricity Reliability Improvement Act of 2003.” 

Less then one month after the August 2003 blackout that cost billions of dollars and left an estimated 50 million Americans without power, Democrats introduced H.R. 3004 to make electricity reliability rules mandatory and enforceable.  Since then, Democrats have been calling on the Republican leadership to immediately address this important issue, by bringing the bill to the Floor, but Republicans have refused. 

This legislation is virtually identical to language included in both the House and Senate energy bills and the provisions enjoy broad bipartisan and bicameral support.    

“The Republican leadership has ignored our requests and the Administration has failed to act,” said Dingell.  “We are as much at risk for a blackout now as we were then, but they choose to continue to play politics instead of trying to prevent another power failure.”

“The electric reliability provision in the energy bill was one of the few issues that had a broad consensus,” said Hoyer.  “But the Republican leadership has decided to put their political agenda ahead of the nation’s interest and allowed their bickering to block progress for the American people.  Democrats want to address this issue in a bipartisan manner before another 50 million Americans have their lives disrupted unnecessarily.”

Currently, the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) can only advise utilities to follow voluntary rules designed to ensure the system’s safe operation. Unfortunately, those voluntary rules were not being followed, leading up to the blackout last summer.  In testimony before the Committee on Energy and Commerce in September 2003, NERC President Michehl Gent said NERC found more then 500 violations of its voluntary rules in 2002.  The U.S.-Canada Power Outage Task Force assigned to investigate the blackout later concluded that these violations contributed to the massive power failure.  The Task Force called for Congress to pass electricity reliability legislation, terming it “the single most important step” toward preventing another blackout.  If the Electricity Reliability Improvement Act of 2003 were enacted, it would make transmission grid rules mandatory and give NERC the authority it needs to enforce the rules.

A majority of the total membership of the House (218 members) must sign the discharge motion in order to force the discharge of the bill from committee and allow it to come to the House Floor for a vote. 

Click here for more background information and fact sheets on this issue

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