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PUCs at 2000 - Question OneState Commissioners

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

will become a much higher priority for the PUC. Oregon is perpetually thirsty, growing in leaps and bounds, and confronting rising costs to extract safe drinking water. Companies face more pressure from both customers and environmental regulators. The PUC will be smack in the middle of these demands in 2000 - torn between affordable rates and a clean, healthy environment.

If we continue to care about equity, quality of service, environment, and our economic future in 2000, then the PUC will be challenged to foster a competitive environment while correcting for inevitable market failures at the same time. If we don't care how the next century begins, we can fold our tents, throw the dice at the gaming table, and tell our children to pick up the pieces. [End of Hamilton response]

Response by Ken Stofferahn, Chairman, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission:

We, and I expect everyone else in the utility world, tells a tale of how deregulation has multiplied and complicated the workload. We don't have a staff large enough to engage in regulatory tail chasing and game playing; we assist in doing what must be done to add some common sense to the process. Common sense tells me there will be a need for us in 2000. We are applying competitive principles to improve the system, and we will have competition in some fashion. That doesn't mean all elements of the industries will be competitive. They won't.

Our past focus was on maintaining fair arrangements between monopolies and retail customers. That will remain. Added to it will be maintenance of fair arrangements between monopolies and "wholesale" customers. Certainly the scope of "what was" versus "what will be" a monopoly is shrinking.

Restructuring is a grand term, but it may overstate the case, given our small number of staff. Virtually all of our staff is and has been involved in deregulatory processes since they began. Our PUC is of necessity characterized by flexibility, not inertia. We are adaptable and we adapt. If restructuring means a shrunken bureaucracy, broadened and updated job descriptions, and development of new skills, we are restructuring. [End of Stofferahn response]

Response by Al Mueller, Chairman, Missouri Public Service Commission:

I think the answer is a definite "yes." At a summit conference of utility commissioners in April 1995 in Denver, CO, it was the general consensus of the 60 commissioners present from 40 states and Canada that a vital role for state PUCs would continue to exist 1) during the transition to more competitive markets, 2) for those portions of the utility marketplace that may not be fully competitive in the short-or medium-term, and 3) even in fully competitive markets. At the same time, the group acknowledged that the role of PUCs will change substantially to accommodate changes in the industries that we regulate. I generally concur with the conclusions that state commissions will continue to play an important role in the utility industry, and that our role in the process will change considerably between now and 2000.

The telecommunications, gas, and electric industries are all in the