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CORPORATISM -
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Energy Bill’s Secret Could Create More Enrons

Posted in the database on Tuesday, July 19th, 2005 @ 18:12:59 MST (964 views)
from The Lone Star Iconoclast  

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As members of the Senate and House last week met to negotiate items in the proposed energy bill, among the key components in both versions of the bill is the repeal of Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA), a New Deal measure that prevents utility holding companies from consolidating as well as using their assets for investment purposes.

“With PUHCA gone, for the first time since 1935, there would be no restrictions on utility holding companies,” wrote Kelpie Wilson, Truthout’s environment editor. “Among other things, holding companies would be free to raid the assets of utilities to feed speculative investments in completely unrelated businesses - just the kind of behavior that Enron engaged in with such disastrous results.

Another change would be opening up U.S. utility ownership to foreign investors.”

Supporters of PUHCA’s repeal point to the goodness of competition and innovation within the industry. Critics and regulators note that mergers would be easier but reduce the powers of state agencies to help consumers.

Wilson said that although the majority of the mainstream media remains silent on this issue, there is still hope to stop the demise of PUHCA.

“PUHCA repeal is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, so it might seem like it’s too late to stop this train, but passage of a final energy bill is far from certain,” she said. “Several things could still derail the bill - the biggest item would be the liability shield for manufacturers of MTBE, a gasoline additive that pollutes groundwater. It’s in the House version but not the Senate, and Tom DeLay won’t snuff it for anything because, after all, he IS the government. And with a real ethics investigation hanging over his head, he probably can’t afford to let it go because he will need endless cash from MTBE manufacturers to keep himself out of jail.”

She continued, “But if DeLay is somehow neutralized, PUHCA repeal could become the issue that kills the energy bill. The Senate version couples repeal with some additional oversight authority on utility mergers granted to FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A number of senators supported PUHCA repeal only because of the addition of FERC oversight. If the House Republicans succeed in pulling that provision out of the final version, it may prompt Senators like Maria Cantwell and Barbara Boxer to vote against the bill in the end. But that’s not likely to happen if the general public remains in ignorance and senators hear nothing but silence from their constituents.”

Wilson added in her statement that the energy bill would perhaps need to be killed in order to prevent the repeal of PUHCA.

“And, if you contact your senator and he or she tells you that PUHCA isn’t needed because increased FERC oversight will give consumers all the protection they need, ask if they know who President Bush just appointed as director of FERC. The answer is Joseph Kelliher. Kelliher was Dick Cheney’s point man in organizing the secret energy task force that drafted much of the energy bill,” Wilson noted.

There is an online petition at (www.petitiononline.com/NYCR/petition.html).