October 29, 2002
Only a few critical votes in November could decide the fate of an ill-advised plan to further deregulate the electricity market.
Congress recessed two weeks ago without succeeding on reconciling two dramatically different versions of the comprehensive energy bill. The IBEW vigorously objected to the Senate version of the legislation, which would have repealed the Public Utilities Holding Company Act. IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill said PUHCA repeal would remove a consumer protection that has served Americans well for nearly 70 years and topple the remaining cornerstone of the regulatory compact between utilities and the public.
"This provision would revive a particularly unsavory chapter in history and unleash the predatory practices seen in California and elsewhere upon the entire nation," he said.
In the weeks before Congress recessed, the IBEW launched an all-out effort to convince Congress to drop the measure. That campaign attracted a large group of allies, including governors of some 18 states, members of many state public utility commissions, particularly from the West and South, several utilities, and consumer and environmental groups.
While Congress plans to return for a so-called lame duck session in mid-November to pass crucial funding bills to keep the government operating, chances the House of Representatives and Senate will agree on a bill are slim, congressional staff members said. Such sessions have historically not been productive, and a party leadership change in either body could devastate chances for any agreement.
"A few votes either way could make the critical difference between a bad electricity deregulation bill and efforts to forge good energy legislation that benefits workers and consumers alike," President Hill said. "The bill on the table serves neither."
Throw in the