Transmission Policy: CFTP’s Sue Sheridan on the Impact of a GOP-Controlled Senate

Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy’s Sue Sheridan discusses the impact of GOP control of the Senate on transmission policy.

Sue Sheridan is the President and Chief Counsel of CFTP. Ms. Sheridan began her work on Capitol Hill as counsel to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power when it was chaired by Rep. Philip R. Sharp, after stints at the Department of Energy and the White House Domestic Policy Council. She worked afterwards at the Energy and Commerce Committee for Chairman John D. Dingell, and served as Chief Counsel to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment when she left the Hill in 2008. Ms. Sheridan now works as a consultant and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and the George Washington School of Law. Ms. Sheridan graduated from Duke University and Vanderbilt Law School.

Transcript below.

Chuck Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Chuck Conconi. My guest today is Sue Sheridan, who is the President and Chief Counsel of the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy. Sue, thank you being here.

Sue Sheridan: Thank you for having me, Chuck.

Chuck Conconi: You know we’ve just come through a remarkable off-year election. The Senate is now in Republican hands, so is the House. Everything is going to change. What is that going to mean for energy policy?

Sue Sheridan: My thought is that for energy policy and perhaps the legislative agenda overall that the presence of one party being in charge of both chambers potentially means a better policy discussion.  The Republicans being in charge means they must show they can govern at get beyond gridlock at least in conversations with one another. So I am optimistic we will have an enhanced opportunity to look at the issues closely.

Chuck Conconi: Do you really think we will get beyond gridlock? They are going to have a lot of battles with the White House.

Sue Sheridan: I think within the legislative branch they might not have gridlock. You raise the right question, which is whether any product coming out of Congress runs into another stumbling block with the White House.  But in the area of energy, I think that it is traditionally has been so bipartisan that there is a chance that it could be the template for going forward.

Chuck Conconi: What kind of specific legislation do you see?

Sue Sheridan: Certainly, it is not something my Coalition works on, but the environmental issues and greenhouse gas rulemaking will continue to be a big concern on both sides of the aisle but particularly for the Republicans. So we have had a lot of concern about the grid, the reliability of the electric grid, how to think about renewables, how to think about distributed generation, and how to make sure everybody pays their fair share using the transmission system. So I think that will be a big issue.

Chuck Conconi: Senator Murkowksi will chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. What kind of impact will that have on your coalition?

Sue Sheridan: I think we are very hopeful that we will get a careful fair hearing from her on our issue, on transmission and FERC cost allocation and planning rule under Order 10000. She had noticed that, a couple of years ago, when she put out a great white paper called Vision 2020, and took note of the same concerns we had  So we have a good dialogue with her And we hope to persuade her on legislative fixes.

Chuck Conconi: So you think she will be more favorable to you?

Sue Sheridan: Yes, I think she will continue to be favorable in her own right. And as chairman, that will be helpful.

Chuck Conconi: And then there is another question I wanted to ask you about and that is the comprehensive energy policy in 2015. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said there could be one. What will that do?

Sue Sheridan: I wonder whether a comprehensive bill is the way the chairmen and the two bodies decide to go forward because I think there are always issues you can carve out of a bill like efficiency,  that often lend themselves to bipartisan, bi-cameral support. Whether or not you can move a big bill with all the complications and germaneness implications that a big bill carries, meaning that any or every environmental issue is relevant, that is a harder climb, I think, but we will see.

Chuck Conconi: But there will be some major environmental fights, no question even within the Congress.

Sue Sheridan: I think so too. And Obama seems to have really designated climate change as one of his legacy issues.  Again, with EPA’s 111 (d) Clean Air Act rule on greenhouse gas emissions that is very controversial. We have already seen members of Congress in both bodies question whether that should move forward.

Chuck Conconi: Let me ask you one quick last question about transmission policy, which has been a regulatory issue with FERC Order 1000. Do you expect Congress to address that?

Sue Sheridan: We are very optimistic that we will get a good hearing. The signals from both the House and the Senate are good. We have not seen legislative language. I think that this yet to come. But we are very optimistic because Order 1000 has turned out to be easy for some areas of the country to adapt to, relatively speaking, but absolutely jarring and difficult for other areas of the country and their consumers to get in tune with and benefit from.

Chuck Conconi: So despite all of the turmoil, it looks good.

Sue Sheridan: I’m optimistic, yes.

Chuck Conconi: Sue, thank you very much for coming on the show.

Sue Sheridan: Thank you.

Chuck Conconi: I’m Chuck Conconi. And this has been Focus Washington.




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