FERC members will be answering GOP questions about the Clean Power Plan

The Republican majority in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce will apparently grill the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at a Dec. 1 hearing on the grid impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s CO2-reducing Clean Power Plan for existing power plants.

EPA published the final version of the Clean Power Plan, and a companion rule for new power plants, on Oct. 23. That triggered a series of federal lawsuits against both rules and an effort in Congress by Republicans, with some support from coal-state Democrats, to derail the rules.

On Nov. 25, the energy committee announced its hearing schedule for the week of Nov. 30. On Dec. 1, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.” Said the announcement: “The four current sitting FERC Commissioners are scheduled to appear before the subcommittee to discuss several issues related to the significant shifts taking place in the energy sector. Among the topics for discussion include EPA’s cap and trade rules that threaten ratepayers and grid reliability around the country, grid security challenges, and natural gas pipeline permitting.” Republicans have lately taken to calling the Clean Power Plan a “cap-and-trade” plan.

Said a GOP staff memo about the FERC hearing: “Given the significant shifts taking place in the energy sector, it is paramount that FERC carefully weigh decisions and policies that can adapt to new challenges and opportunities to build a market-driven, modern and flexible system while ensuring the continued safe, reliable and affordable delivery of energy to consumers. Such shifts also raise important questions as to whether FERC’s statutory authorities – namely those derived from the [Federal Power Act] and [Natural Gas Act] – require modernization to reflect current energy realities. It is equally critical to evaluate whether FERC is overstepping its existing statutory boundaries to pursue policy goals not intended by Congress.”

That last sentence also apparently alludes at least in part to the Clean Power Plan, which EPA issued after Congress failed to act on climate change legislation. FERC members have said that while the Clean Power Plan will require a lot of work to implement, it can be done while maintaining grid reliability.

Notable is that the subcommittee that will hold the FERC hearing is chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who hails from a state that it is both a major coal producer and heavily reliant on coal-fired power. He has been a sharp critic of various EPA regulatory initiatives, including the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Also, on Dec. 3, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing entitled, “The Nuclear Waste Fund: Budgetary, Funding, and Scoring Issues.” Members will examine historical changes to the budget process and the impact those changes have had on how the Nuclear Waste Fund is managed and how used fuel activities are supported in the appropriations process. The subcommittee will also review ways to improve the life cycle funding of used fuel management system.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.