|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Tuesday, April 24, 2001||202-224-0894|
The Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs voted today, 19-1, to approve S.206, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 2001.
The bill, an important component of the planned overhaul of federal energy policy, would repeal the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935 (PUHCA) and transfer oversight of public utility holding companies from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and appropriate state agencies.
S.206 was approved with these amendments: One, offered by Sen. Mike Enzi, would establish the Electric Energy Market Competition Task Force to study competition in the wholesale and retail market for electric energy in the United States. The task force would be made up of representatives of FERC, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as non-voting representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Enzi's amendment also contained a provision, co-sponsored by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, that would preserve FERC's authority to require that energy rates are reasonable and do not include the pass-through of holding company costs that are unrelated to energy.
Another amendment, offered by Sen. Jon Corzine, would initiate a study by the General Accounting Office of the success of federal and state governments in preventing anticompetitive practices by public utility holding companies and in promoting competition and efficient energy markets.
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, made the following statement:
"I spoke at some length at our March 29 hearing on this issue, and I can summarize my views in four short points.
"Number one, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 is antiquated and redundant.
"Two, I believe PUHCA is a barrier to the investment in power plants and transmission lines that we need to generate the energy that America is set to consume. In encouraging such investment, which will help the energy problem in California and prevent similar problems from occurring elsewhere.
"Three, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have, in recent years, endorsed a repeal of PUHCA.
"Finally, I believe PUHCA impedes the functioning of a competitive market. I think it hurts ratepayers. I think it hurts investors. When a regulation, now 65 or 66 years old, is deemed to be harmful to ratepayers and investing, the time has come to repeal it.
"In each of the past two Congresses, this committee has acted on this bill. What has always happened is, we have had a consensus that repealing PUHCA would be of benefit to the country. But I think there has been a feeling that the bill could be a vehicle for doing a lot of other things that would do more good than simply repealing PUHCA. These other issues have held up final passage.
"I think it is now clear with what is happening in California and with similar problems, though not as acute, occurring in various places around the country, that this Congress needs to act on important energy legislation. I think it is distinctly possible, though I hope it is not true, that repeal of PUHCA could turn out to be the only energy bill passed this year or in this Congress. I want to assure my colleagues that I intend to be in a full-court press in trying to get this bill through the full Senate.
"I'm not saying that I'm going to oppose any amendment that might be offered on the floor, but my principal objective is going to be the repeal of PUHCA. If an amendment is offered that will promote the adoption of the bill, and the amendment is good, then I'm going to be for it. If a potential amendment harms our ability to repeal PUHCA, even though the amendment might be good, I'm going to tend to be against it.
"The Senate has an opportunity to pass an important bill that is directly related to the problem in California and the problems we're having elsewhere. I think it is very important that we not miss this opportunity."