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PUCs at 2000 - Question TwoState Commissioners

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

the 1993 legislative session, with the introduction of several varieties of wheeling proposals. None were passed, but an interim legislative committee was formed to look at not only wheeling bills, but the whole industry. The committee has examined and heard testimony on just about every aspect of the utility game, and had most of the major experts present testimony at their meetings. The PUC assisted the committee with analyses and tons of information. In fact, I would say that our legislators know more about the industry and how it

operates than some in the industry. As a result, committee chairman State Sen. Sanchez (D) was selected to serve on the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry. In addition, we funded a study by the National Regulatory Research Institute in 1994 for the legislature's use: Overview of Issues Relating to the Retail Wheeling of Electricity. It has been a NRRI best seller. We have also funded two more studies that will be published by the fall: Impacts of a Retail Wheeling Statute in New Mexico: An Evaluation, by New Mexico State University, and A Quantitative Analysis of the Economic Impact of Retail Wheeling in New Mexico, by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of New Mexico. These were done to assist our legislature in understanding the complexity of the industry and the potential economic impact of wheeling. A PUC must develop a working relationship with its legislature, on a regular personal basis, to where the legislature has facts as well as confidence in what the PUC says and does. We have found that the legislature welcomes our input and comments; to do otherwise invites trouble with a capital T. [End of Ingram response]

Response by Hugh A. Wells, Chairman, North Carolina Utilities Commission:

Our relationship with our General Assembly has been satisfactory. Generally, our legislators do not show lack of interest in utility regulation, but perhaps manifest less concern than they do for other pressing issues - e.g., educational funding, revenues sources, and crime and punishment.

PUCs, including ours, should work more effectively to communicate to legislatures the state's vital interest in effective public utility regulation and in avoiding or preventing federal preexemption. [End of Wells response]

Response by Roger Hamilton, Chairman, Oregon Public Utilities Commission:

The big lesson learned from this year's legislative session was that legislators do not understand what the PUC does, and do not have an appreciation for the challenges facing monopoly regulators. The quest for reduced government and the belief that federal deregulation should be imitated at the state level converged this year, resulting in a wrecking-ball approach to the PUC structure that eliminated our transportation function. We are now picking up the pieces, and in my view, in spite of the pain, we may be a leaner and more focused agency in the bargain. I am less confident that shippers and the general public, particularly in rural areas, will be better off with truck and rail safety, railroad crossings, and household goods regulation now housed at the agency that builds and maintains the