A View from Capitol Hill at PJM General Session

They called it “What Every Energy Businessperson Needs to Know,” and, while it may not have been exactly that, two aides from the U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources gave attendees at the General Session of the PJM Annual Meeting of Members a broad overview of committee operations.

Patrick McCormick, chief counsel for committee chair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Spencer Gray, who works for ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), sat with Craig Glazer, PJM vice president – Federal Government Policy, to discuss topics, including energy policy, public lands and the bipartisan energy bill the Senate recently passed.

The bill, S2012, is the first major energy legislation to pass the Senate since 2007. It is close to 800 pages and passed by an 85-12 vote. McCormick and Gray discussed the lengthy process to get there – multiple hearings, weeks of staff negotiations and an open debate during which the Senate accepted more than 60 amendments.

Gray pointed out that the bill doesn’t contain many revolutionary concepts but it does contain many “small ball” items that reflect the interests of many sections of the country with hydroelectric programs and research and development projects.

McCormick and Gray also discussed the committee’s makeup, both in ideological terms and geographic. Politically, they range from staunch conservatives to their ideological opposites. Of 22 committee members, most come from states without an organized energy market and many represent states where the federal government holds much of the land.

The presenters said the committee’s jurisdiction over electricity commands a lot of attention from the senators. Recently, Murkowski and Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about the need for a national policy on price formation in energy markets. In addition, Murkowski and Cantwell have asked the Government Accountability Office to look into capacity markets.

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PJM Board of Managers Chairman Howard Schneider closed the session with a thank you to outgoing Board members Dick Lahey and Jean Kinsey.  He cited the knowledge and experience they brought to the PJM Board.

“In addition to their economic and engineering acumen, they have been wonderful people to work with. Long before collaboration and collegiality became well-publicized themes in the business world, Dick and Jean were demonstrating and exemplifying those qualities here at PJM,” said Schneider. “On behalf of the PJM Board, staff, members and stakeholders, thank you for your many years of service.”