A House committee approved some limits on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's plan to create super-regional electric power transmission organizations in most of the nation, but it passed over a more fundamental challenge to FERC's authority.
A comprehensive energy bill adopted by the Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday would restrict FERC's ability to require that utilities give competing power companies equal access to their transmission networks. FERC could not order open transmission access if utilities need their wires to serve their customers.
The restriction was a key objective of politically influential southern utilities that oppose FERC's goal of requiring power companies to turn operating control of their transmission lines over to independent regional organizations, to increase competition.
The House committee on Wednesday said the restriction would not apply in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic or New England, where utilities have already formed cooperative transmission and power-coordinating organizations.
A second limitation on FERC's plan sought by its critics never came up in the committee's deliberations. It would have blocked FERC from requiring utilities to give customers separate details on charges for power, long-distance transmission and power delivery. Some utilities that combine those rates don't want to "unbundle" them, but their supporters on the committee did not press the issue this week. It is expected to reappear later this year as the full House and Senate take up electricity legislation, some industry analysts said.