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Laissez Ies Bons Temps Rouler: NARUC's 107th Convention

Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1996

is the mega-NOPR anti- competitive . . . [i]t sustains an old regulatory mindset that places the interests of utilities ahead of the interests of customers. By allowing utilities to recover all stranded investments, FERC is asking customers to bail out those utilities that made . . . unwise decisions. FERC's stranded-investment recovery plan actually discourages customers from patronizing the lowest-cost energy suppliers."

Tomasky chose to address the question of

federal-state jurisdiction, contending that the FERC has no "carefully crafted scheme to grab jurisdiction from the states in pursuit of a seamless web of

federally dominated utility regulation. . . . The truth is, our Commissioners, I believe, want nothing more than to permit states to pursue retail access if they so choose, unimpeded by the feds."

This cooperative spirit was much in evidence at a full-house meeting attended by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), despite the prediction of Texas's Robert W. Gee:" There will be no high fives at the end of this two-hour conference." No voices were raised during FERC chair Elizabeth Anne Moler's "crazy experiment." There were only productive exchanges. And tentative plans for future get-togethers.

Moler predicted nonproductive court battles unless state and federal regulators found "practical, workable solutions" to important issues. She also noted that the market, not the FERC, was the driver behind restructuring and deregulation of the electric power industry. "We are introducing competition," she said. "We want willing buyers and willing sellers to be able to get together.

"We are not on a mission to expand our jurisdiction. A proposed definition of what is local distribution is included in the NOPR. If we need to change the definition, fine. We will, if we can be convinced that there is something that is more workable, that is consistent with our legal requirements."

One regulator asked if the FERC and the states would be preempted by Congress. Moler said the FERC recently attended its first Congressional oversight hearing on the mega-NOPR, and that open access wasn't questioned. "They do want us to work with the states," she said. "That's very clear."

Christine E.M. Alvarez of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission asked the Commissioners to define the state-federal jurisdictional line in service delivery.

"Are you concerned the NOPR erodes your jurisdiction?" asked FERC Commissioner William L. Massey. "Or are you concerned the NOPR doesn't leave you with a piece of jurisdiction?"

"Both," Alvarez answered.

"If you know you're going to have a piece of every transaction, is that good enough?" Massey said. "I'm not talking about how big a piece it is, but a piece. Something to hang your costs on and to work your will."

Alvarez suggested that the states retain jurisdiction over retail transactions, but didn't offer a transaction size.

As the convention drew to a close, NARUC voted in a new president, Cheryl L. Parrino, chair of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. Parrino thanked and commended the candidate slated for the presidential dais (em outgoing first vice president Edward H. Salmon (em who withdrew his candidacy in October, citing "baseless allegations" that the