News Intelligence Analysis
A New York Times editorial
November 28, 2003
At Least, Strengthen the Grid
We were happy when Republican leaders abandoned an awful, pork-laden energy bill before the holiday recess. The bill did, however, contain a few useful provisions, one of which deserves to be resurrected the moment Congress returns to work. It would require the federal government and the utility industry to write mandatory rules for the operation of the power grid. The goal is to make America's electrical transmission system more reliable and fix some of the things that may have contributed to the August blackout.
The system already operates under voluntary guidelines that cover such issues as how much power can flow through a given line and how equipment should be maintained. The recent federal report on the blackout found that two of the main culprits FirstEnergy of Ohio and a regional center based in Indiana violated five of these rules. Operators of the grid are likely to behave more responsibly under mandatory rules with meaningful penalties.
Representative John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, says that Congress should vote on the reliability provisions separately from the rest of the bill. These provisions have broad bipartisan support and would almost surely succeed on their own. Mr. Dingell's idea has been endorsed in the Senate by, among others, Maria Cantwell of Washington, who helped organize the filibuster against the larger bill. "You can't have good energy policy held hostage for bad energy policy," Senator Cantwell says, and she is right.
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