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By Rebecca Kern
March 14 — The House passed three energy bills by voice vote March 14, including the Fair RATES Act (H.R. 2984), which would amend the Federal Power Act so that proposed rate changes would go into effect after 60 days if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fails to take action when a four-person commission is deadlocked.
The Fair Ratepayer Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency Standards (RATES) Act would allow consumers to challenge any proposed rate increases from FERC.
“Consumers deserve a right to be heard as their energy rates continue to increase,” Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the legislation, said in a March 14 statement.
A companion version of the bill (S. 2494), sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Markey's staff is in conversations with the committee, with a “strong desire to move quickly on the bill,” an aide to Markey told Bloomberg BNA March 14.
As a stand-alone bill, it is noncontroversial and a simple fix, and tying it into the larger Senate energy bill could complicate its passage, an aide to Kennedy told Bloomberg BNA March 14.
Additionally, the House passed H.R. 4427, which would amend the Federal Power Act to raise the monetary threshold at which FERC has to give prior approval before a merger or sale among public utilities takes place. The legislation would increase it from $50,000 to more than $10 million.
Language from H.R. 4427 also is included in the broad House energy bill (H.R. 8), which passed the House last December. There is no companion bill currently introduced in the Senate.
The House also passed the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act (H.R. 1268), which requires federal agencies to increase the use of energy-efficient data centers to allow for more energy-saving information technologies in the government.
Language from H.R. 1268 is included in the broad Senate energy bill (S. 2012), which has been stalled for the past several weeks due to holds placed by senators related to Flint, Mich., water crisis funding .
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