January 24, 2001
12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Chairman Frank H. Murkowski today told his Senate colleagues, “California needs to make a good faith effort to accept its responsibility in this energy crisis and pay some of the bills. It is then that the federal government can take a look at possible efforts to help. But it is not up to the federal government to bail out California for a series of bad decisions.” The Chairman said the reason for California’s energy problems is fairly simple, California does not have enough generation to meet consumer needs. To illustrate his point Murkowski said the state has gone out of its way to discourage the construction of new power plants and he said they have a severe case of “NIMBY” not-in-my-back-yard, when it comes to electric powerplants and transmission lines. “Remember last summer when Pacific Gas and Electric tried to bring barge-mounted generators into San Francisco –but environmentalists objected? And right now a major consumer of electricity in California–the high-tech firm called Cisco–is fighting the construction of a new power plant near its office building in San Jose.” Instead, California has relied on other states to meet its growing needs. “According to the California Public Utility Commission, between 1996 and 1999, only 672 megawatts of new generation were added to California’s system. But during the same period peak demand increased 5,500 megawatts–more than seven times as much,” Murkowski explained. “If California’s electrical demand grows at only 5 % annual rate–as some are projecting–California will have to add three 1,000 megawatt power plants every year just to stay even. That is the equivalent of two Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants every six years,” said the Chairman. “The State made systematic decisions over a 10-year period to not produce new power in California, while at the same time they watched their power consumption grow. The State made deregulation decisions that did not really remove regulations, it simply changed them. And now in the face of mounting debt and possible utility bankruptcy, the State refuses to allow rate increases to pay for expensive out-of-state power. This situation can not continue,” said Murkowski. The Chairman concluded that the state of California must take the lead role and be supported by consumers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Administration and the Congress – all as part of the solution. CONSUMERS–must shed their objections to power plants and transmission lines and pay for the power they need. CALIFORNIA– must expedite permitting and siting of new generation and transmission facilities and allow consumer prices to rise to reflect the cost of the power they are consuming. FERC– must provide the necessary incentives for new generation and transmission to be built and act more quickly than they have in the past. ADMINISTRATION– must support new generation and transmission and make sure that existing generation continues and is not prematurely shut down. CONGRESS– must act on legislation to allow the construction of new transmission lines and legislation to protect the reliability of the grid.. “Both President Bush and I are seeking to revitalize our energy industries and to formulate a long-term energy strategy that will ensure the United States has the energy we need to fuel our economy,” said Murkowski. The Chairman today announced the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the California crisis sometime in the next week. ###