Ohio coalition seeks consumer protections under federal energy legislation

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 24, 2002 — A coalition representing a broad array of electricity consumers in Ohio has undertaken an effort to affect portions of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2002.

The coalition consists of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Industrial Energy Users – Ohio, the Ohio Municipal Electric Association, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, and the Ohio Grocers Association.

The coalition is specifically concerned with changes made in the United States Senate to S.517 — the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2002 — that would repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA). PUHCA was implemented in the 1930’s to protect consumers from market abuses by large and complicated interstate holding companies.

The Senate version of the Energy Act repealed PUHCA without providing adequate preventative safeguards for consumers. The Ohio coalition is seeking Congressional support for vesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with the necessary tools and authority to prevent market power abuses, inappropriate inter-affiliate market transactions and mergers that harm the competitiveness of the wholesale electricity market.

The Ohio coalition believes that without these protections Ohio electric consumers would be vulnerable to energy market manipulations and abuses. The coalition is concerned that without proper oversight federal regulators will be hampered to detect and prevent Enron-like accounting practices and market manipulations.

The U.S. House-passed version of the current Energy Act, H.R. 4, did not include electricity provisions. Both the Senate and House bills are in a conference committee to work out the differences in the two versions. The conference committee will be meeting throughout the summer in the hopes of passing the legislation prior to adjournment.

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