WASHINGTON: Energy issues were thrust into the spotlight following the Northeast blackout, lending a new urgency to the issue in Congress and giving utilities a rare chance to voice their ambitious agendas.
Energy companies are among the most influential in Washington, often spending upwards of $150 million a year on lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But the blackout spurred interest among the public that industry spokespeople called unprecedented.
"We've been in emergency mode the whole way," said Jim Owens, director of media relations for the Edison Electrical Institute (EEI), a leading industry association. "Right now we're just trying to swing at every pitch that comes our way."
Owens and his colleagues used the week to advocate normally unpopular issues to which the public suddenly seemed more receptive.
Jim Steets, a spokesman for the Entergy Corporation, has for years been locked in a fierce battle for public opinion over the Indian Point nuclear power plant just north of Manhattan.
"I think people are suddenly stunned into realizing that the electrical grid needs to be improved, and that additional sources of power need to be built," he said. "We're trying to get our senior leadership on the major networks, Larry King Live, and things of that nature, while also hitting the policymakers with inside-the-beltway publications and C-SPAN."