Newspaper Article Presents Dispute Between Pjm and Its Market Monitor

Michael Giberson

A story by Peter Behr in today’s Washington Post lays out all the pieces in the dispute between PJM and Joe Bowring, chief of PJM’s market monitoring unit:

Federal energy regulators plan to meet today to try to resolve damaging accusations against PJM Interconnection by a key employee who oversees the fairness of electricity prices in the PJM system, the distributor of electric power to 51 million people from Washington to Chicago.

The dispute before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission erupted in April when Joseph Bowring, PJM’s internal market monitor, went public with complaints about his top management. Bowring charged that PJM officials had ordered him to delete a critical analysis from his official 2005 annual report, had barred him from briefing PJM members about some concerns, and refused to notify FERC about what Bowring said was an excessive $20 million payment to a generator.

In overseeing companies such as PJM, FERC depends on the market monitor, who is both a company employee and a watchdog who is supposed to alert regulators to problems.

As Behr notes, FERC is scheduled to address the dispute in today’s open meeting of the Commission. If you’re interested and near a computer, you can watch the meeting live online beginning about 10 AM EDT. More from the Post:

PJM documents and internal e-mails filed in the case show an increasingly hostile relationship between Bowring and PJM’s top executives as he battled to protect the independence of his analytical team, while his bosses questioned his work and demanded that he behave as an employee.

“This has been a management problem that should have been dealt with three to four years ago,” said Nora Brownell, a former FERC commissioner. “There are issues on both sides — Joe’s style and Phil’s style. To my regret, it came down to these two strong personalities.”

Some parts of this story have been discussed here before (our first comment here, a longer list of related comments is in this post).

UPDATE: At today’s FERC meeting the Commission took what may be considered the less disruptive way forward. The Commission concluded that the PJM market monitor must begin reporting directly to the organization’s board, not to PJM management. FERC sent most of the other open issues back to the parties involved, telling them to enter into settlement talks and come to an agreement that they all can live with. FERC has issued a news release, and posted the Chairman’s statement and the order online. The video from the meeting will be archived at the link listed above (and repeated here) for about three months.