Congress plans to address Western energy woes |

Congress plans to address Western energy woes

WASHINGTON (AP) House Republicans are working on a plan to waive some clean air provisions and direct the use of more federal portable generators to ease California’s summer power crunch.

But Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee that would write the legislation, said he remains opposed to temporary price controls to dampen high wholesale electricity prices in the West.

”Price caps don’t work,” said Barton, although he told an energy conference Wednesday, ”We can’t just say let California take care of California.”

Democrats, joined by some western Republicans, have sought temporary regulation of wholesale electricity prices, which they say are beyond what is reasonable in the West.

Legislation introduced Wednesday by a group of House Democrats would require prices to reflect costs of power production plus a reasonable profit. It would get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates wholesale electricity prices, ”to its job” and provide relief from high power costs in the West, said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.

In response, Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Commission, said the price-cap idea was a ”knee-jerk reaction (that) would only wind up as a kic Fj7stors also punished blue chips, particularly those they feared would perform Protection Agency to waive some clean air rules to allowing states to adjust daylight-saving time and direct the military to make available portable power generators.

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The draft proposed that the Pentagon ”explore” docking some of the Navy’s nuclear-powered ships offshore to supply the California grid with electricity. But Barton told reporters Wednesday that idea had been scrapped because of problems of getting the electricity to shore and that the ships might be needed elsewhere.

”It was an idea,” he said.

Barton said he hoped to have the legislation ready for a vote within a few weeks. He has sent a copy to the White House, but has not gotten a response.

Other proposals in the legislation include:

n The Federal Emergency Management Agency would develop an emergency plan in response to blackouts

n Federal facilities in California would use 10 percent less energy than last year.

n The federal EPA would waive some of its clean air requirements to boost power production from older plants.

Barton’s draft was criticized by a number of Calif G Bnned as an extended decline, usually of 20 .

Several other provisions of the Barton draft raised concerns from environmentalists.

The Democrats’ bill would force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to cap those prices in the Western power markets until March, 2003 with new generation facilities exempt from controls.

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