Collins Releases GAO Report on Electricity Blackout; Says Findings Emphasize Failings of Proposed Energy Bill

Washington, DC –Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today said her opposition to the energy legislation under consideration by the U.S. Senate has been reinforced by a new General Accounting Office (GAO) report on this summer’s electricity blackout. The blackout left eight Northeastern and Midwestern states and areas of Canada in the dark and was the largest blackout in U.S. history.

Senator Collins requested the GAO report, “Electric Restructuring: 2003 Blackout Identifies Crisis and Opportunity for the Electricity Sector,” to determine the system-wide issues that contributed to this summer’s regional failures of the electric grid and to see what the industry and lawmakers can learn from them. The findings highlighted several problems that continue to raise concerns about the overall status and reliability of the country’s electricity grids.

“The GAO report makes clear that the proposed Energy Bill creates more crisis than opportunity. The Energy Bill before us does not provide the solution our nation needs to improve the reliability of our electricity grid,” said Senator Collins. “The electricity provisions in this bill will negatively impact electricity prices while failing to prevent future blackouts or sufficiently improve reliability. These provisions will prevent us from taking the steps necessary to create a better functioning, more streamlined national electricity system.

“I will join efforts to block the Energy Bill and ultimately vote against it.”

Findings of the GAO report:

1) Oversight of the markets and reliability needs more attention. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs the authority to gain access to the data it needs to perform this duty.
2) Security for critical infrastructure is of growing importance. There needs to be a reassessment of the security of the nation’s physical infrastructure and related information technology.
3) While the electricity sector is in transition to competitive markets, the full benefits of these markets will take time to achieve.

“The Energy Bill not only fails to address these problems, it makes them worse. This bill is detrimental to our efforts to reform and improve the electricity grid especially in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States,” said Senator Collins. “The bill is bad for electricity consumers, bad for manufacturers, and particularly bad for the Northeast. I urge the Senate to reject this proposal.”

The 2003 blackout affected as many as 50 million customers in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a wide range of vital services and commerce. Lost productivity and revenue is estimated in the billions of dollars.

View the report online: .