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Congress Can Act on Grid Reliability

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Months of congressional hearings have led to a crescendo of concern over grid reliability and the danger posed by the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda. With eye-opening testimony coming from utilities, co-ops, grid operators and reliability regulators, Congress now has a deeply important opportunity to take action.

Today, the House Energy, Climate & Grid Security Subcommittee is marking up 17 bills including the “Guaranteeing Reliable Infrastructure Development Act,” or the “GRID Act.” This bill, introduced by Chairman Jeff Duncan, address a key complaint from reliability stakeholders: an alarming lack of coordination between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the energy reliability experts who know what it takes to keep the lights on. The GRID Act would ensure that federal agencies cannot finalize regulations that are likely to have a significant negative impact on the reliability and adequacy of the bulk-power system without considering and responding to input from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other relevant electricity reliability organizations.

It is commonsense that the EPA must consult with FERC or the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) about the impact that its proposed rules – like the so-called Clean Power Plan 2.0 – might have on grid reliability; remarkably, commonsense has been recklessly absent in the EPA’s approach.

The folks who know the grid best and are charged with keeping the lights on are in fact sidelined when it comes to regulations that will have deep impacts on the nation’s energy supply. With no formal role in shaping policy – or even requirements for their expertise to be considered – utilities, grid operators and reliability regulators are left submitting comments, providing testimony to anyone who will listen and pushing out one public reliability warning after another. Indeed, they have become frantic bystanders to the EPA’s agenda, which is being led by an administration that is stubbornly deaf to their concerns. EPA has bulldozed through the warnings and done little more than pay lip service to congressional inquiries over the impact of its agenda.

In fact, while EPA claimed it consulted FERC over the reliability impact of the proposed Clean Power Plan 2.0, commissioner James Danly submitted a blistering letter to the agency correcting the record. “The EPA did not consult the Commission,” he wrote. “I was not asked what I thought of the Proposed Rule’s effects on electric reliability, and I am not aware of my fellow commissioners having had their feedback solicited.”

Danly requested that EPA extend the comment period for the rule to allow a FERC technical conference on reliability scheduled for November to inform the EPA’s administrative record. He added that what should be under consideration is not just this single rule and its impact on grid reliability, but the suite of rules EPA is pushing as well as other public polices reshaping the nation’s resource mix. He wrote, “until the record of FERC’s technical conference is submitted in the docket, the EPA will lack the record evidence necessary to make an informed decision.”

Despite Commissioner Danly’s letter, and a number of other letters from members of Congress, all of which ask for an extended comment period on the rule, EPA declined. This is the stunning bottom line Congress can fix: EPA simply doesn’t have the evidence or expertise to make sound decisions about the impact its agenda is having on a grid teetering on the very edge of catastrophe.

Even NERC has pleaded for increased interagency coordination. This spring, Jim Robb, the president and CEO of NERC, was asked during testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if the generating capacity EPA’s regulatory agenda is forcing off the grid can be sufficiently replaced without incurring reliability impacts. He said, “Not in the timeframe we’re looking at. No.” He added, “Interagency coordination is absolutely needed for policies that impact generation, especially coal resources, to keep reliability at the forefront of the policy table.”

Now is the time for a bipartisan effort to ensure EPA formally consults with the nation’s reliability experts about rules it’s proposing and is required to amend those rules based on expert feedback.

The greatest threat facing the nation’s reliable supply of power is policy. The Biden administration simply refuses to grapple with the danger its blitz of rulemakings pose to the grid. It’s now incumbent on Congress to provide a tool to rein in a wildly irresponsible and fundamentally dangerous agenda. The GRID Act is exactly what is needed to ensure reliability experts – not the EPA – have the final say over reliability of the nation’s supply of power.


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