Chairman Domenici and Alex Flint briefed approximately 40 reporters today regarding the status of the energy conference. Chairman Domenici outlined the procedure he will use to move the conference forward in an expeditious and open fashion. After receiving input from the bipartisan staff meeting earlier this week, Chairman Domenici concluded that a timely conference report can only be achieved if everyone is working from the same text as early as possible. Right now, conferee and committee staff are trying to look at the text of H.R. 6 as passed by the House, H.R. 6 as passed by the Senate last year and S. 14. Chairman Domenici believes meaningful negotiations can’t begin until everyone is working from the same text. To achieve this, Republican staff of the Senate Energy Committee and House Energy & Commerce committees began today to draft proposed conference report language, drawing from the three bills mentioned above. This text will be made public incrementally over the next two weeks beginning Monday, September 15. Draft text for Tier II issues will be released first, such as language on capitol complex, state energy programs, housing and energy efficiency. Draft text for Tier I issues will follow. Once draft text is released, staff will hold a series of meetings to consider proposed changes to the draft text. Chairman Domenici has instructed that these meetings be inclusive, frequent and responsive to suggestions made by the public, special interest groups and Democrat and Republican staff of all conferees and committees of jurisdiction. Chairman Domenici noted that Senator Bingaman had expressed an objection to this procedure. Chairman Domenici expressed his respect for Senator Bingaman and his sensitivity to Senator Bingaman’s concerns. But Chairman Domenici reiterated his firm conviction that this energy conference would mire down in confusion if the three bills under consideration are not swiftly reduced to a single text for the purpose of negotiations. He emphasized to reporters that reducing the three bills to one draft was for the purpose of further negotiations. The proposed language was not to be deemed final copy. This process differs from last year’s conference. Last year, the process was very inclusive early on and became more exclusive as the conference proceeded. Everyone participated in the early meetings. However, in the final days of the conference, most staff and even senators were excluded from negotiations. Chairman Domenici is deliberately reversing this procedure. Early meetings for the purpose of producing a draft for negotiations will be selective. However, once draft language has been produced, subsequent meetings will be open and inclusive. Chairman Domenici also reiterated that he remains firm in the commitment he made to Senator Shelby regarding SMD and RTO. Senator Domenici and Senator Shelby reached an agreement regarding SMD and RTOs in the final hours before the August recess. This agreement was essential to the UC on an energy bill. That agreement is as follows: FERC cannot implement SMD until Dec. 31, 2006. FERC cannot mandate participation in RTOs until Dec. 31, 2006. Nothing in the agreement can be interpreted to infer that FERC has authority to mandate participation in RTOs AFTER Dec. 31, 2006. (In short, we will leave it to the courts to decide whether FERC has that authority.) This remains Chairman Domenici’s position. He noted that there are strong differences of opinion regarding how electricity issues should be handled. He cited, as an example, the fact that the Administration’s position on RTOs, as outlined in Secretary Abraham’s Sept. 10 letter, differs from FERC Chairman Pat Wood’s position. There are honest disagreements on electricity that will be resolved in conference. The committee will post on the web and distribute by email proposed energy language as it becomes available.