Oregon Senator Eugene “Gene” Derfler

2017 Vito Stagliano Excellence in Electricity Policy Award

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC) has selected retired Oregon legislator Eugene “Gene” Derfler as the 2017 recipient of the Vito Stagliano Excellence in Electricity Policy Award.

“Senator Derfler exemplifies the highest standard for public service,” said NIPPC Executive Director Robert Kahn commenting on the selection. “His leadership, while State Senate President, led to enactment of Oregon’s landmark restructuring legislation: Senate Bill 1149. Gene’s foresight and cooperative style looks better with each passing legislative session.”

Eugene Leo Derfler was born in Portland in 1924. He grew up in Southwestern Washington and attended the Western Washington College of Education. His studies were interrupted by naval service in during WWII during which he flew reconnaissance patrols and accompanied convoys.

After a stint as a manager at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Derfler and a partner started a business in Salem selling furniture and appliances. The store over the course of three decades became the city’s most prominent local retailer. After selling the business, Derfler became a part time relator and full time elected official.

In 1987, Derfler challenged the incumbent winning a seat representing the 31st District in the Oregon House of Representatives. A Republican, he served in the House until moving up to represent the 16th district from 1994 through 2002. Derfler served as Senate majority leader for four years and Senator President for two.

As a pro-business legislator, Derfler worked hard to create a strong business climate in Oregon. In 1999, he championed businesses’ ability to leave utility cost of service and freely choose their electricity supplier. Senator Derfler gathered together a large work group of representing utilities, residential and industrial consumer advocates, other stakeholders – including regulators — to draft Senate Bill 1149. While moderate in contrast to California, SB 1149 enabled large customers to shop the wholesale market for electricity along with optimizing utility investments in energy efficiency.

The directive to the Oregon Public Utility Commission was straightforward. It remains state law: “The duties, functions and powers of the Public Utility Commission shall include developing policies to eliminate barriers to the development of a competitive retail market structure. The policies shall be designed to mitigate the vertical and horizontal market power of incumbent electric companies, prohibit preferential treatment, or the appearance of such treatment, of generation or market affiliates and determine the electricity services likely to be competitive.”

The provisions of SB 1149 were to take effect in 2000 but the West Coast Energy Crisis spooked consumer groups and others pushing the law’s starting date back to March 2002. The legislation’s intent has yet to be fully realized.

In November 2002, then-Governor John Kitzhaber appointed Derfler as one of Oregon’s two representatives on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a four-state compact created by federal statute. The Council is charged with overseeing the region’s federally funded fish and wildlife programs and writing a regional power plan. While serving on the Council, Derfler promoted the idea of the four Northwestern states served by Bonneville Power Administration acquiring its assets and managing the system’s hydro power supply and transmission grid for the region’s benefit.

After Derler left left the Council he served as chair of the State Fair Council, worked with Salem’s Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) before finally retiring from public service.

“The balanced reform of SB 1149,” Robert Kahn observed, “testifies to Senator Derfler’s style of leadership. We need legislators who work as Derfler did, now more than ever.”

Past Awardees

2017: Eugene “Gene” Derfler

2016: JT Thompson

2015: Jan Hamrin

2014: Philip Moeller

2013: Marlene Lockard

2012: Dana Peck

2011: Ray Baum

2010: Virginia Coe

2009: Denise Hill

2008: Jeff Morris

2007: Roy Hemmingway

2006: Vito Stagliano

Who Was Vito Stagliano?

Vito Alexander Stagliano – Advocate for Change in Electricity Policy

Vito Stagliano’s career included consequential service at the Department of Energy, national advocacy as Calpine’s VP of transmission strategy, and an instrumental role in guiding NIPPC.

The first recipient of the award named in his honor, Stagliano epitomized the qualities of leadership in electric policy innovation: incisive intelligence, firm advocacy, coalition building, and persistence. Vito Stagliano, always the gentleman, left an indelible mark on all those who knew him.

When he passed away unexpectedly in January 2008, Vito Stagliano was serving as Director of Research for the Washington DC-based Commission on Energy Policy, where he originally joined staff in March 2006. Formerly a Federal executive, Stagliano served most of his public service career in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), initially as Special Assistant to the Secretary, subsequently as head of the Policy Integration Office, and finally as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Analysis, the career service’s highest rank. He assisted in the analyses and design of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He oversaw the analyses conducted by the DOE national laboratories that led to the promulgation of the first Federal climate change policy. Stagliano oversaw the first drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve that coincided with the start of the first Gulf war and, in collaboration with Resources for the Future and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; he directed the landmark U.S.-European Study of the Cost and Benefits of Fuel Cycles.

While Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy in the Administration of George H.W. Bush, Stagliano led the government-wide effort that resulted in the National Energy Strategy promulgated by the President in 1991, and legislated by Congress in 1992 as the Energy Policy Act. For his public service between 1989 and 1992, He was awarded a bronze and silver medal for exceptional service by Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins, and a meritorious service medal by President Bush.

Stagliano was a Visiting Scholar at Resources for the Future (RFF) from 1993 to 1996, where he co-authored “A Shock to the System: The Restructuring of America’s Electric Utility Industry,” and “Energy Security in the Twenty-first Century,” the latter in collaboration with the National Defense University. He is also the author of “A Policy of Discontent: The Making of a National Energy Strategy.”

Stagliano was appointed a vice president of Commonwealth Edison Co. of Chicago, in 1998, responsible for transmission policy and bulk power operations, where, in collaboration with several other Midwest electric utilities, he developed the so-called Binary Model of a for-profit transmission business operating within the framework of a non-profit regional transmission organization. While also at Commonwealth Edison, Stagliano managed the regulatory approval processes, at the FERC, the FTC and the SEC, for the merger with PECO Energy, which resulted in the present-day Exelon Corporation. The merger was approved unconditionally on the prescribed 120-day calendar.

Stagliano subsequently held the position of vice president for transmission strategy at the Calpine Corporation. At Calpine, Stagliano directed the company’s participation in emerging ISOs and RTOs, provided strategic advice on Federal and State regulatory proceedings, oversaw filings and interventions in support of competitive wholesale power procurement processes by native utilities, and testified before the FERC and State Commissions on regional power markets development. He was instrumental in the redesign of RTO-West, which, as the latter Grid West provided a platform for a substantial consensus on the Pacific Northwest’s transmission system problems and opportunities.

Stagliano also advocated more competitive and market-driven behavior on the part of the Federal Power Marketing Administrations (BPA and WAPA), whether or not they were members of ISOs/RTOs.

Stagliano was a member of the U.S. and International Associations for Energy Economics, the Gridwise Architecture Council, the Theodore Thomas Society of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Poetry Society. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, served on the staff of the Peace Corps in Ghana and Washington, DC, and on the staff of the Agency for International Development in Senegal and Bourkina Faso. He served for two years as Executive Director of the Palau, Micronesia, Community Action Agency in the former U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific.