House Energy Efficiency Bill Draws Fire From Obama Administration, FERC

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By Ari Natter

June 3 — House energy efficiency legislation that would block the Energy Department from issuing final energy efficiency standards for commonly used furnaces and roll back other energy conservation standards drew fire from the Obama administration June 3.

The draft bill, a component of a broad omnibus energy bill slated to be released later this summer, “undermines critical components of the President’s Climate Action Plan,” Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Energy Department, testified during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

While the Obama administration has yet to formulate an official position on the legislation, Hogan told the Subcommittee on Energy and Power that the department has “a number of concerns” with the bill, including a section that would hinder its role in developing building codes related to energy efficiency.

The bill, released by the committee in April, is supported by trade groups representing utilities such as Xcel Energy Inc. and Southwest Gas Corp., as well as the National Association of Home Builders.

FERC Criticism

In addition, a separate subtitle of the bill related to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, drew criticism from commission officials, who testified sections of it were unnecessary.

“The Commission is always looking for ways to improve the efficiency, transparency and competitiveness of its markets, but it is important to recognize the duplication of effort and potential unintended consequences that could result from this proposed legislation,” J. Arnold Quinn, FERC director of energy policy and innovation, said in his written testimony.

One section of the bill would require FERC to establish an Office of Compliance Assistance, which would be responsible for promoting improved compliance with commission rules and orders by, among other things, giving regulated entities the opportunity to obtain timely compliance guidance, making recommendations with respect to market behavior and enforcement, according to a committee bill summary.

Purchase Requirement Rollback 

“While I support the goal of this section, I believe that the Commission, the Offices within the Commission and the Commission staff are currently and actively performing much of the work envisioned by this section,” Quinn said in his testimony.

The bill also includes a section to roll back language in the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 effectively requiring utilities in organized markets to purchase power from renewable and cogeneration facilities of 20 megawatts or less.

That measure is backed by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the owner of three regulated utilities—MidAmerican Energy Co., PacifiCorp and NV Energy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The accountability title is available at http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF03/20150603/103551/BILLS-114pih-SubtitleB-Accountability.pdf.