Electric co-op chief urges Congress to “wait and see” on drafting electricity legislation

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2003 — The chief spokesman for the nation’s cooperative electric utilities Thursday voiced continuing concern about the timing and content of proposals to restructure the electric industry.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Energy Committee, Glenn English, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, complimented committee members and staff for their legislative efforts, but urged withholding action until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had ample time to fully explain its initiative to revamp electricity markets, known as Standard Market Design, or SMD.

“While we appreciate the efforts of this Committee and will continue to work with you, the wisest course of action is no action at this time on any comprehensive electricity legislation, or on SMD-related provisions until FERC’s proposals are fully explained and understood,” said English. “Only then will Congress know what changes to propose in the electric industry.

“Broad energy legislation that contributes to our nation’s security may be a good idea, but Congress should take a time-out on electricity. We urge you to take time to review the failed deregulation attempts of recent years and adopt a new approach, one that brings reliability and stability to an industry in turmoil — reliability and stability for investors and consumers,” he said.

“Further, consumer-protection laws in the electric industry have never been more important as we transition to a competitive marketplace,” said English. “Now is not the time to repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) without adequate consumer protections in its place or to undermine FERC’s authority to ensure that utility mergers are in the public interest.”

NRECA is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide electric service to more than 36 million people in 47 states. Full text of English’s testimony is available at www.nreca.org.