The Washington Post yesterday incorrectly listed Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.) as author of an amendment to the bill creating a Department of Energy that would have removed from the secretary power to curtail and allocate natural gas during a shortage. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) offered the amendment, which was defeated.
The House indicated yesterday it is willing to create a Department of Energy but with less power for the secretary than President Carter wants.
The House voted 236 to 119 to place the power to set wellhead nautral gas prices and wholesale interstate electricity rates in an independent commission within the cabinet-level department, rather than shift it from the Federal Power Commission to the secretary. Then, it voted 200 to 125 to give Congress a one-house veto over all regulations issued by the department. The House is expected to complete action on the bill today.
The President wants to pull most federal energy functions together into one department to give coherence to administration of the national energy policy he has asked Congress to enact. It would include the functions of the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Federal Power Commission among others.
The Carter administration had already agreed in the Senate to give away the secretary's price-setting power, but the House bill carried it a step further. The Senate bill would place power to set prices in the independent commission but would permit the secretary to propose price changes and set a deadline for decision and would give the President a veto over a commission decision. The House bill contains no provision for presidential veto or input by the secretary.
Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.) offered the gas price-setting amendment, arguing that such power should not be vested in a single individual but in a board insulated from political pressures and operating in the open under the federal "sunshine" act.
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), manager of the bill, opposed Moss on grounds that if the secretary is to meet the challenge of the nation's energy problems he must have the power to set policy and act.
The House rejected by voice vote a second moss amendment that would also have switched from the secretary to the commission power to allocate and curtail natural gas during a shortage. Rep Frank Horton (R-N.Y.) told the House that if it was going to keep "whittling away" at the secretary's powers it might just as well not create a department.
The amendment giving Congress the power to veto department regulations by a vote of either house was offered by Rep. Elliott H. Levitas (D-Ga.). This has passed the House before in regard to other agencies but has not been enacted into law.
Sponsors said the power of a department to issue regulations amounts to the power to pass laws and that Congress should have power to review and veto them.