Protecting the Public Interest
Bipartisan Amendment to Financial Overhaul Bill Easily Passes
A bipartisan amendment that the Senate tonight added to the financial-overhaul bill will protect utility customers from being charged unjust and unreasonable rates by electricity and natural gas companies. The amendment, which was voice voted, preserves the authority that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the States currently have to ensure that this doesn’t happen. A broad alliance of senators co-sponsored the amendment: Bingaman (D-NM), Murkowski (R-AK), Reid (D-NV), Brownback (R-KS), Cantwell (D-WA), Cornyn (R-TX), Wyden (D-OR), Corker (R-TN), Inouye (D-HI), Murray (D-WA) and Shaheen (D-NH).
“The Senate tonight took a strong, principled stand in support of consumer protection,” Sen. Bingaman said. “Let’s hope this safeguard doesn’t get tampered with in conference.”
Since 1935, the Federal Power Act and the Natural Gas Act require that FERC ensure that utility customers are charged just and reasonable rates for electricity and natural gas. State laws require State commissions to do the same for retail customers. FERC also has authority, granted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, to police market manipulation in electricity and gas markets that would affect the prices customers pay. This was a direct response to the Enron manipulation of electricity markets in the West.
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