Sue Sheridan, president and chief counsel of the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy, sits down with host Chuck Conconi to discuss the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s transmission policy, a test case for Order 1000, and possible Capitol Hill developments in 2013.
Chuck Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Chuck Conconi. My guest today is Sue Sheridan, the President and Chief Counsel of the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy. Sue, thank you for coming on to the show again.
Sue Sheridan: Well, thank you for having me again, Chuck.
Chuck Conconi: There’s a lot we can pick up. Sue, the last time you appeared on Focus Washington we discussed electricity transmission policy and the Coalition’s concerns about The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 1000. What happened this year with order 1000?
Sue Sheridan: Well Chuck, since we last spoke there have been several events that are important. First, after the proposed rule came out for public comment, we and many others issued statements saying that we were very concerned and filed petitions telling FERC what we were concerned about. We had hopes that those concerns would be addressed in the final rule. But when FERC issued its final rule in July of 2011 we had the same concerns. So, we then filed for a petition of rehearing and, unfortunately, FERC denied these requests in May 2012. At this point, parties are now filing compliance plan starting in October.
Chuck Conconi: So this is how you’re challenging the orders. Is there anything specific you are going to do in the challenge?
Sue Sheridan: Well, we have brought suit in federal court along with many other people. Our primary concerns are two-fold. First, that the order upsets bottom-up transmission planning, which has always been the role of the states and has worked well. Second, the order would provide for cost allocation for new transmission lines that isn’t fair, that doesn’t meet the just and reasonable standard of the Federal Power Act and doesn’t match up with the benefits and the costs to transmission customers.
Chuck Conconi: Now, there was another Federal Energy Regulatory Commission case from the Midwest. A utility there objects to spending $33 million on transmission upgrades that it says produce no benefits for its customers. I assume the Coalition is really interested in this case.
Sue Sheridan: Yes, we are interested in this case. We’re not a party to the case, but nonetheless we think it could give us some sense of where FERC is going to go as it implements individual orders under Order 1000. This is a case where Interstate Power and Light Co, a utility, complained that it was being charged four times as much as it should be by FERC for transmission upgrades. In this case they argued that there was no equation between the benefits and the costs, and that the FERC costs were not roughly commensurate with the benefits they receive.
Chuck Conconi: Like everything this year, what about the upcoming elections? Does the coalition benefit from either Democrats or Republicans controlling the House and the Senate and relevant energy committees?
Sue Sheridan: Well, we are actually very fortunate. We’re a bipartisan coalition and we have bipartisan support. In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be chaired by someone new because Senator Bingaman is retiring. But, whether it is Republican Lisa Murkowski from Alaska or Democrat Ron Wyden from Oregon, both are cosponsors of a bill that would address our concerns. So, we are fortunate there. We also have allies in the House, so think we can work with whichever party is in control.
Chuck Conconi: And you expect 2013 to be a big year for the coalition on Capitol Hill?
Sue Sheridan: Well, I think so. There hasn’t been an energy bill, really of any magnitude since 2007. There are a number of issues that have arisen. Transmission is certainly one of them. We know there is interest among House members and Senators. So we hope that there will be some oversight hearings and even legislation if we still are finding we have the same problems with FERC after the commission addresses the compliance filings.
Chuck Conconi: Sue, thank you for being with us.
Sue Sheridan: Thank you Chuck.
Chuck Conconi: I’m here with Sue Sheridan. I’m Chuck Conconi. This has been Focus Washington.