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House passes Gosar amendment to protect PMAs from Chu memo's directives


From the July 12, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published July 12, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor

An amendment added this week to the $30.4 billion energy and water appropriations bill, H.R. 2609, would prohibit the Department of Energy from implementing the so-called "Chu Memorandum," a set of directives to the federal power marketing administrations that was issued in March 2012 by former Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The energy and water bill for fiscal 2014, called the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, passed the House Wednesday night.

The amendment on the Chu memorandum was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and was approved on a voice vote. Later that day, the House approved H.R. 2609 by a vote of 227-198.

The Chu memo "has created a great deal of concern among our constituents who rely on power marketing administrations for affordable and reliable energy," Gosar said in a speech on the House floor. The PMAs — four regional power marketing administrations that have been delivering energy to consumers for more than 75 years — have been "successful models of regional collaboration with local stakeholders and a guided principle of 'beneficiary pays,' meaning that whoever benefits from the specific investments in the PMAs’ infrastructure ultimately bears the cost," he said.
 
The Chu memo "directs the PMAs to act in areas involving transmission expansion, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cybersecurity – all laudable goals – goals that, on the surface, I support," Gosar said. "In fact, I have strongly advocated for the expansion of transmission here in Congress." But Gosar said he believes the Chu directives "would implement a top-down approach that could most certainly impose greater costs and risks that outweigh benefits and could undermine the collaborative and low-cost, emissions-free nature of the federal power program."
 
He noted that this issue "has undergone significant scrutiny here in Congress over the past year." Last year, Gosar and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) led a letter expressing concern over the Chu memo.  The letter was signed by more than 160 members of the House and Senate, almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. 

"There are few issues the Congress has had such consensus on in the past," Gosar said. "It is best if we stop this train wreck from moving forward before it is even implemented.  My amendment would simply prohibit the power marketing agencies from utilizing their budgets to implement any new program, project, or activity proposed under the guise of this memo."
 
Many believe that the recommendations in the memo go beyond DOE’s authority under existing law, he said. "If the DOE would like to move forward, this amendment ensures the administration will have to come forward in a transparent manner and request legal authority." 

"I hope my colleagues will support this common-sense amendment that will preserve the existing federal power program and ensure our constituents' electricity costs stay low," he concluded.

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