April 29, 2003
New Mexico’s Consumers Won’t Benefit from Electricity Measure in Energy Bill
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
On Wednesday, April 30, at a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (R-NM) will be voting on an electricity title – introduced by Sen. Domenici – in an all-inclusive energy bill. These senators have two choices when casting their vote. If they vote to reject the title, they will be supporting the current, state-regulated, electricity system that has provided inexpensive, reliable electricity for consumers throughout New Mexico. If they vote for the electricity title, they will be handing control over to the same agency that oversaw the California deregulation crises: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
On April 18, committee Sen. Domenici, chairman on the Committee, released a revised draft of the electricity title that will limit the ability of states to protect consumers by controlling locally generated electricity. New Mexico should be most concerned over language in Domenici’s measure that encourages the creation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) and grants the FERC authority over power line assets – a job now left to states.
While proponents claim that multi-state markets created by RTOs will increase competition, regional markets currently operating in Texas, the Midwest and the Northeast have been unable to address the market abuses that occurred in California and that may arise in the regional transmission organization system envisioned in this legislation. Domenici’s bill would lead to dramatically higher prices for consumers as New Mexico officials, who are accountable to the voters, would have their authority handed over to the same five-member commission in Washington, D.C., that approved of and oversaw the price-gouging during the California energy crisis. President Bush appoints the FERC commissioners.
Public Citizen urges the rejection of this provision of the energy bill.