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NERC urges Hastert to call up grid reliability bill

US consumers are exposed to increased risk of failure of the transmission grid as more demands are placed upon it, says Michael Gent, president of the North American Reliability Council, in a letter to US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) urging the House to pass electric system reliability legislation before adjourning in October.

In June, the US Senate passed SB 2017 which would create an independent, self-regulating industry organization to establish and enforce compliance with mandatory rules for operating the nation’s high-voltage electric transmission system. It would be overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the US.

The legislation is presently being “held at the desk” by the House leadership rather than being assigned to a committee. The device permits House leadership to send a bill straight to the floor for a vote, but it will require a super majority in favor to pass the legislation.

Since the Senate bill was passed, Gent said, new language has been developed addressing concerns of proposed regional transmission organizations, as prescribed by FERC Order 2000, in maintaining reliability of transmission systems subject to their control.

As electricity markets become more competitive, the voluntary arrangement under which the system now operates is no longer sufficient, Gent emphasized. NERC testified last year before both the Senate and House it is seeing an increase in the number and seriousness of the violations of its voluntary reliability rules. The organization cited actions of certain control areas in the Eastern Interconnection last summer as demonstrating the industry is facing an urgent crisis.

In arguing for quick passage, Gent said it will take months after legislation is enacted for FERC to adopt implementing rules and designate the new electric reliability organization called for by the law.

“Such rules must be fairly developed and fairly applied to all operators and users, under the oversight within the US of FERC,” he said. The proposal follows a model similar to ones developed by the securities industry self regulatory organizations such as the National Associations of Securities Dealers (NASD).

A not-for-profit company, NERC was formed in 1965 to promote reliability of the bulk electric systems in North America and is comprised of 10 regional reliability councils accounting for nearly all the power supplied in the US, Canada, and portion of Baja California Norte, Mexico.