Democratic News

Congress has started a 6-week recess. During that recess, on Aug. 14, we will mark the first anniversary of last summer’s crippling blackout. Knowing that, it is hard to understand why some in Congress continue to block the legislation that is needed to avert future blackouts. That legislation was the top recommendation of the U.S.-Canada Task Force that looked into the causes of last summer’s blackout. It is not controversial. The language was largely worked out in the last Congress. It has been passed, in one form or another, by the Senate in three different Congresses. Legislation with this language is on the Senate Calendar – S.2236, introduced by Sen. Cantwell. Thirty senators, from both parties, have signed on. With electricity demand likely to peak as we move into summer’s dog days, Congress is running the risk of being blamed for the next blackout by not passing this bill. Sen. Cantwell has asked unanimous consent to pass this reliability bill three times. No Democrat has objected. There also is support for the bill among a number of Republicans. But others in the Majority have held up this legislation. Apparently, the objection is that the Senate is not passing reliability as part of a comprehensive energy bill. But, as everyone knows, that bill totals 1,237 pages and contains many expensive and controversial provisions. S.2236 is just 14 pages long. That’s about 1 percent of the size of last year’s energy conference report. It will not be easy to justify the Senate’s failure to pass a 14-page bill to give Americans a more dependable power grid -- not because of anything contained in those 14 pages, but because the Senate would not attach 1,223 other pages of legislation containing controversial provisions unrelated to electricity. When Congress returns in September, Sen. Bingaman hopes that those who are preventing passage of this needed legislation will rethink their opposition. If there is another major blackout due to reliability problems, it will be hard to defend this refusal to act to those who might suffer significant economic loss -- or even the loss of life -- as a result.

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