Former PUC Chair and Agency Critic Cites National Interest
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the House and Senate work toward agreement on a final energy bill the recent electricity blackout looms large. Members and staff are asking each other weighty questions: ‘How can we ensure greater reliability?’ ‘Are we doing what it takes to build transmission capacity?’ ‘Are federal and state regulators working at cross purposes?’ In answer to all three questions, a former state public utility chairman and current Washington, DC think tank president favors a proposal that may help: giving federal regulators more jurisdiction over electricity transmission siting.
Calls to expand federal authority are not unique in Washington; they’re part of everyday business, no matter the party in control. Yet this particular call is both important and remarkable because (a) it is the focus of a knock-down fight among conferees in energy bill negotiations and (b) this particular call is coming from a very unlikely source – a federalism-minded former regulator from a conservative, western state who is, himself, suspicious of granting more power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and who said as much this year before the Senate Energy committee.
In an article that appeared in Tuesday’s Energy Daily, Raymond L. Gifford, president of The Progress & Freedom Foundation and the immediate past chair of Colorado’s PUC, says he’s reached the point of calling for additional FERC authority because of the “national interest” being at odds with “institutional incentives states face when making transmission siting decisions.”
“Put bluntly, the states simply do not have, and indeed cannot have, the national interest in mind when making transmission siting decisions that involve their own state,” he writes in ‘Confession of a Former State Regulator: FERC Needs More Grid Siting Authority.’ “To the contrary, the various state laws direct state officials to make decision based on state interests, thus precluding consideration of longer-term and broader interest such as the integrity and reliability of the national bulk transmission grid.” From experience, he claims that “beggar they neighbor” and “NIMBY” (not-in-my-backyard) can be damaging. Gifford testified before the Senate Energy Committee against FERC’s Standard Market Design Proposal this spring.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.