Reliant Loses Power

Posted January 16, 2004 at 4:57pm

Enron isn’t the only energy-trading company that’s getting zapped these days.

Reliant Energy plans to close its Washington office to save a few bucks. [IMGCAP(1)]

The move, which comes as the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans power up to make a final push on energy legislation this month, has angered some of the company’s allies.

“We’re upset that they have decided to pull out of Washington, especially when we are trying to get one of the biggest energy bills ever,” said one Texas Republican. “They had been a powerful voice for Texas.”

Reliant will maintain a staff of regulatory attorneys to represent the company at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but will let go of its three lobbyists, including Washington head Bud Albright.

But don’t shed too many tears for Albright. Not only did Albright suggest eliminating his position, but he appears to have another job lined up. The former aide to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is thought to be the leading candidate to become the

new staff director for the Energy and Commerce Committee when Barton replaces Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) as committee chairman.

“I’m exploring several options,” Albright said of his future. “I don’t know absolutely what I will do, although I am pretty close to making a decision.”

Reliant is not the only force in the energy-trading business that has seen better days.

The industry’s trade association, the Electric Power Supply Association, recently lost one-fifth of its members, leaving at least a few staffers worried about their jobs.

Among the companies that left for separate reasons were Duke Power, Dominion, Resources Allegheny Power, PPL and UBS.

Palmetto Loses Rudd-er. K Street’s loss is the Democrats’ gain.

David Rudd, a top lobbyist with The Palmetto Group, is taking a leave of absence to become executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Rudd is a former aide and close ally of Sen. Fritz Hollings (S.C.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, a connection that helped The Palmetto Group recruit a set of lucrative clients.

The firm billed about $3 million in business last year from a client base that included Philip Morris, Comcast Corp., Pfizer and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Rudd plans to return to his lobbying post once his tenure at the DSCC ends.

Oxygenated Fuels Loses Air. A controversial MTBE fuel-additive provision helped to sink a massive energy bill late last year.

Now, MTBE has claimed another victim. The industry’s Washington trade group, the Oxygenated Fuels Association, has decided to fold.

But members of the association say problems on Wall Street — not Capitol Hill — caused the group’s collapse.

In a statement, the association said: “Given the difficult business and market environment over the past year for the producers of MTBE and others in the petrochemical industry, the Board agreed in December that the scope and mission of the association, while important, was increasingly difficult to justify in light of the present market dynamics.”

The demise of the association does not mean that the industry will go without representation in Washington as talks restart on the energy bill.

Many of the association’s members plan to remain part of a broader industry group, the National Petroleum Refiners Association.

MTBE, a cleaner-burning fuel additive produced during the oil refining process, became one of the most controversial issues in the energy legislation last year after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) and other Texans insisted that MTBE producers be given liability protection.

Auto Alliance Loses a Spoke. Just as soon as the Association of Automobile Manufacturers announced that is has hired a new interim president, news comes that one of the 10 car makers in the group has left — for now.

Nissan left the automakers’ lobby late last year because it wants to become a junior member of the group, which would allow the car company to pay less in annual dues.

Full-fledged association members pay more than $1 million a year in dues, while so-called associate members fork over just a few hundred thousand, according to sources in the industry.

Based on the bylaws for the association, full-fledged members like Nissan must resign from the trade group before reapplying for the cheaper status.

“We resigned as a full member because we determined that we want to change our status,” confirmed Harland Reid, the top lobbyist for Nissan North America.

However, it is unclear if the Association of Automobile Manufacturers will grant Nissan’s request to pay less money for the same amount of help from the trade group.

Gloria Bergquist, the association’s spokeswoman, declined to comment on Nissan’s application other than to say that the association and its members “very much regret Nissan’s decision to resign from the Alliance effective November 12.”

Reid said that Nissan has not decided if it will apply to rejoin the Association of Automobile Manufacturers as a full member if its bid for a change in status is rejected.

Last week, the association announced that GOP heavyweight Fred Webber will become interim president of the group while it continues a lengthy search for a permanent president.