Perry faced an early grilling from Rep. Frank Pallone in his opening statement. The New Jersey Democrat accused the Trump administration of hypocrisy, noting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this week criticized the Obama administration for favoring renewable energy in its bid to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
"It's an ironic proposal considering that EPA Administrator Pruitt stated as part of his announcement in rolling back the Clean Power Plan — and again I'm quoting — that 'regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,'" Pallone said.
"But Mr. Secretary, that's exactly what you're doing here. You're distorting the market, damaging the environment and delivering preferential treatment to favored industries, and at the end of the day, killing off competitive electricity markets just to save generation assets that are no longer economical," he said.
Pallone notified Perry that his office was requesting a detailed accounting of the process the Department of Energy followed to develop the proposal, including records of staff meetings and taxpayer funds spent on the matter.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the subcommittee, asked Perry why the Energy Department ordered FERC to consider its proposal on an expedited basis and whether there was a level of urgency that was not being addressed elsewhere.
"The base reason that we asked for this, for FERC to take a look at this and to act, is that for years this has been kicked down the road, if you will," Perry responded.
There was an awkward moment when Upton asked Perry about the timetable the Energy Department gave FERC. Perry said he did not know, turned to his aides and shrugged his shoulders. He turned back to say, "Sixty days is the, I think, the ... " before making a hand gesture indicating length.'Fallacy' of free markets
Perry said that in a "mythical world" unfettered competition would create a reliable and resilient power system, but in the real world, every state regulates energy markets to some degree.
"I think the idea that there is a free market in electrical generation, it's not a bit of a fallacy, it is a fallacy," he said.
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"We subsidize a lot of different energy sources. We subsidize wind energy. We subsidize ethanol. We subsidize solar. We subsidize oil and gas ... and so the question is how do you make it as fair as you can?" he added in a follow-up answer.
Asked by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., about FERC and NERC's assessments that the U.S. power system remains reliable, Perry suggested FERC members take a short-term view of the market, and he was trying to make a longer-term assessment of future needs.
"I respect the FERC members' views. I think their picture is one that is a snapshot in time. There's blue skies. The sun's shining. The wind's blowing. The pipelines are carrying gas," he said.
FERC is an independent federal agency that regulates electricity and natural gas transmission and wholesale retail across state lines. NERC is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority that assures the reliability and security of the bulk power system in North America.