Contact: Tina Kreisher or Joe Brenckle
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
(202) 224-4971

For Immediate Release:
April 11, 2000


WASHINGTON, D.C.­ In the first day of possibly three days of hearings on measures to enhance competition in the electric power industry, Chairman Frank H. Murkowski said, "The consumer has benefitted from competition in other industries such as natural gas, telecommunications, trucking and airlines. In each case competition reduced prices, enhanced supply and encouraged innovation. I expect competition will do the same in the electric power market."

The Committee was set to review eight bills, four comprehensive and four more narrowly focused. The issues in all of the bills include competition and reliability. The Chairman cited great progress in the eight years since enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Some 24 states have adopted retail competition. He said FERC is creating vigorous competition in the wholesale market. "The legislative task we face is building on this progress--not starting from scratch."

The Chairman cautioned however, that the industry isnšt broken. "And I do not intend to break it with bad legislation." He cited that caution as one of three guiding principles to use in considering such legislation. "First, we should respect the traditional role the states have played with respect to regulating this industry. With all due respect to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), I have more trust in the states to look after the interests of consumers than I do with regulators in Washington. And second, we need to get the federal house in order. We need to amend federal law to ensure reliability, and to clarify the ambiguity between federal and state jurisdiction. We need to repeal outdated federal laws such as PURPA and PUHCA.˛ (Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and Public Utilities Holding Company Act.)

Referring to legislation introduced by Murkowski and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, the Chairman said, "Our legislation promotes competition by deregulating and letting the market work -- not by creating more federal command-and-control or by preempting the states."

Critically important to any electric legislation is protecting reliability. "Our legislation protects reliability in several ways. First, it protects retail reliability by making sure that state public utility commissions continue to be fully able to protect retail consumers. Second, it assure generation reliability by promoting competition­the generation market will respond to consumer needs. Third, it protects transmission reliability three ways by: ensuring open access to all transmission lines, not just those owned by investor-owned utilities; creating a comprehensive reliability organization that has clear enforcement authority providing a mechanism and incentives for the building of new transmission lines."