After several public hearings, followed by weeks of work in committee rooms culminating in a final debate yesterday, the Senate unanimously voted during its 5th day of extraordinary sitting to pass the 2015 Electricity Law of Liberia.The bill entitled: “2015 Electricity Law of Liberia,” was submitted to the Legislature for consideration in July by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It was subsequently sent to the Joint Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment; and Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petition.Another bill with similar content was also sent to the lawmakers by a civil society electricity advocacy group, BRESCELCO, a month earlier.According to the Senate Committees’ findings, the main crux of the President’s bill seeks to liberalize the electricity sector as a means of driving competition which could improve access, quality and lower costs of electricity.The act also establishes, according to the committees, the legal and regulatory framework for the generation, transmission, distribution and retail sale of electricity and for import and export which it said will create an enabling environment for private sector investment in the country’s energy sector.Based on findings as a result of the hearings and contentions raised by members of the Senate plenary prior to yesterday’s debate, the 14-member Joint Committee submitted a seven-point recommendation to plenary which was adopted.The joint committee recommended that in addition to its role as the transmission system operator and the national grid company, the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) should continue to be involved in the power generation business.It further stated that from the effective date of the proposal, LEC should be considered to be automatically licensed provisionally to engage in power generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity.The three committees further recommended that the regulatory functions should rest with the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy MLM&E) for a period of two years from the effective date of the law which “will allow time for the European Union-sponsored capacity building project in the Department of Energy at the Ministry to be implemented.”The Royal Government of Norway, the committees disclosed, also has a capacity-building project with the MLM&E in the electricity sector, and will help to train the staff of the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC).‘The Chairperson and the other two members of LERC should be appointed no later than one year after the effective date of this law,” the committees recommended.No later than the end of the first year, which marks the beginning of a two-year transitional period, the committees said the MLM&E and the Regulatory Commission shall constitute a transitional committee composed of the commissioners of the Independent Regulatory Commission (IRC) and staff of LM&E to develop a detailed transition plan, which will guide the implementation of the transition from LM&E to the IRC.“At the end of the two-year transition, the IRC should be fully established and completely separated from the MLM&E and housed outside of it.”Giving a summary of the report before submission to plenary, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Albert Tugbe Chie, said the recommendations will go a long way to enhancing the provision of cheap and reliable electricity.Senator Chie allayed the fears of most of his colleagues that government involvement as regulator will drive away investors from venturing into the electricity sector.He reminded them that despite the government serving as regulator in the mineral and other sectors, investors are still coming to the country.The Grand Kru County Lawmaker said building the capacity of regulators will take over a year and must not be treated as an emergency. Other senators suggested however that Liberians in the Diaspora, who have capacity in that area, should be encouraged to come home.The LEC was created by an Act of the Legislature in 1973, and although it does not have monopoly by law, the corporation has been in charge of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity services.At US$0.54 cents per kilo watt hour, Liberia has the highest tariff for electricity in the world. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
TUCSON, Ariz. – Under the shade of a mesquite tree here one morning this week, waiting for work that did not come, Elias Ramirez weighed the hurdles of what could be the biggest overhaul in immigration law in two decades. To become full legal residents, under a compromise Senate leaders announced Thursday, Ramirez and other illegal immigrants would have to pay a total of $5,000 in fines, more than 14 times the typical weekly earnings on the streets here, return to their home countries at least once, and wait as long as eight years. During the wait, they would have limited possibilities to bring other family members. “Well, it sounds difficult, but not impossible,” said Ramirez, 24, a native of Chiapas, Mexico, who has been here a year. “I would like to be here legally in the future, so these things are what I might have to do.” Another man among the group of job-seekers gathered outside a church here that serves as a hiring site for day laborers overheard Ramirez and approached with disdain. In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Bush said that the measure “will improve security at our borders. It will give employers new tools to verify the employment status of workers and hold businesses to account for those they hire.” Bush added: “This legislation will clear the backlog of family members who’ve applied to come to our country lawfully, and have been waiting patiently in line. “And this legislation will transform our immigration system so that future immigration decisions are focused on admitting immigrants who have the skills, education, and English proficiency that will help America compete in a global economy.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “It’s almost impossible to bring your family,” he said, rattling off information he had gleaned from a Spanish-language newspaper. “You have to go back first, and what are you going to do in Mexico while you are there and there is no work?” The compromise bill has offered a glimmer of hope to illegal immigrants here, 60 miles from the border, and elsewhere. But they and others, through news reports, advocates, and lawyers, are just now learning the fine print. Advocacy groups here said they would lobby lawmakers to reject the bill, saying it would place onerous restrictions on illegal workers who want to win legal status and also hurt efforts to unify immigrant families. “This is an unprecedented shift from family unity being the cornerstone of our immigration policy,” said Isabel Garcia, a lawyer and a chairwoman of Derechos Humanos, an advocacy group here. Garcia also objected to what she called “insurmountable” obstacles in the bill. The compromise Senate bill proposes an initiative to give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. It also portends a major shift in the priorities and values of American immigration for the future. It would gradually change a system based primarily on family ties, in place since 1965, into one that favors high-skilled and highly educated workers who want to become permanent residents.