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Monday, December 09, 2019

How A Big Power Company Wields Power In Washington

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

 

The organization that runs our nation’s largest wholesale electricity market spends millions on lobbying and political donations, money it hasn’t publicly disclosed that could affect electricity bills for millions of people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

A watchdog group, Public Citizen, wants federal regulators to require the organization, PJM Interconnection, to disclose political spending including campaign contributions and lobbying.

PJM has given at least $456,500 to the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association from October 2007 to August 2017, according to a complaint that Public Citizen filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Under IRS rules, the governors’ associations are political organizations.

PJM has at least five different lobbying firms, according to Public Citizen. The organization has 10 lobbyists in Pennsylvania, two lobbyists in Ohio and one lobbyist in Virginia.

PJM wants federal regulations to dismiss the complaint and says that it is not engaged in impermissible political spending. PJM said the expenses include educational activities, monitoring and communicating. The federal commission was scheduled to consider the complaint at its January meeting but didn’t.

“The complaint is replete with speculative and unsubstantiated allegations,” PJM said in its response to the complaint.

Public Citizen searched Congressional and state databases and an IRS database to estimate political spending by PJM. The organization has long had an issue with a lack of transparency. PJM routinely leaves the line about political activities blank on its annual report filed with FERC.

PJM is funded by payments tens of millions of Americans make through their monthly utility bills in the District of Columbia and 13 states where PJM operates, including Illinois, Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio.

The federal commission is currently deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. Kevin McIntyre, who chaired the commission until October, died in January of brain cancer. Trump has yet to nominate a fifth commissioner.

Bernard McNamee, Trump’s most recent appointee, has supported the Trump administration’s proposal to subsidize failing coal and nuclear plants.

The Federal Power Act, first passed in 1920 and amended many times since then, requires that utility rates be “just and reasonable.” Public Citizen wants the federal commission to take action against for PJM for potential violations of this act.

 

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