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1996 Regulators' Forum

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

on an experimental basis. Florida has fairly reasonable rates. We're kind of at that midpoint, and in some cases lower. We feel like we've done a good job in regulating our electric companies up to now.

"The goal is to have fair, just, and reasonable rates, and reliable electricity. And if competition can deliver that better than we can, that's the way it ought to be then." [End of Clark comments]

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Comments by Ralph Nelson, president, Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Q. NARUC is restructuring. What must it maintain, what must it change, and what qualities must its director have to keep it ahead of industry issues?

A. "I think it'll help if we get somebody who has had some experience in this regulatory arena before and has dealt with some of this change. Somebody who's had some experience on the Hill. . . . [NARUC must] be willing to change with the times. And I see a great deal of change coming. . . . I think you're going to see rate-of-return rate cases for telephone and electricity go by the wayside. I don't think the organization and its structure needs to change as much as the thinking."

Q. How active is your state legislature in electric deregulation? When is this participation helpful? When is it intrusive?

A. "The leadership has appointed a committee to look at electric issues and they [held their] first meeting on September 28. So they're trying to get active and educated. "I think their participation is always helpful. We'd rather have them start early and get aware of the issues rather than just have a bill thrown down that's an up or down call. In the past, we've been over there arguing issues before a committee which isn't the optimum place. . . . You'd like to discuss the legislation before it gets to the committee."

Q. Are industrial and residential consumers pressuring you to deregulate? How do the grassroots politics in your state differ from elsewhere; what defines your political climate?

A. "Residential consumers aren't. There's some pressure from industrial consumers. They're telling us they can get a better deal if they have a choice. I'm not sure I believe it." "Our legislature is very conservative. There hasn't been a lot of money available for grassroots groups to represent themselves before our commission. . . . It's not like having TURN [California's Toward Utility Rate Normalization group] or somebody around."

Q. What are the pluses and minuses of U.S. Rep. Dan Schaefer's restructuring bill?

A. "I'm not as familiar with that bill as I'd like to be, but what's wrong with it is having a national solution. Areas of the country are so different, I don't think there's a national solution. I think it's driven by idealogy rather than a real national problem."

Q. Your commission recently ruled that electric deregulation was "neither feasible nor desirable." How long will you maintain this position? How can you resist change as neighboring states and federal legislators consider mandating it?

A. "I think it would require some legislative

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