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1996 Regulators' Forum

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

appropriate that transmission service be federally regulated and that transmission policies . . . reflect the concerns and particular attributes of different regions." [End of comments by Howe]

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Comments by Nancy McCaffree, chairman, Montana Public Service 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. "What it must maintain is the quality of service. . . . NARUC has done an excellent job in the past of keeping us informed as to what's going on, when congressional hearings are, that sort of thing, so we could have input. The changes I see that need to be made, and I've talked to Cheryl Parrino [NARUC president] about these too, is the kind of money they spend. I think they have to take a look at how they put meetings on . . . the kind of gifts that are given out, that sort of thing."

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

A. "It's covered under other committees that they do have. And I think it's something they should look at. I think legislators need a thorough understanding of what deregulation means. It's tough to get competition in Montana in anything. And I think a lot of our legislators see that also. I don't think we're going to look at total deregulation anytime soon here."

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. "I wouldn't say consumers are. . . . Our large industrial group . . . feels deregulation would help them. We're pretty concerned about what it's going to mean for the residential consumer, the small businesses, if they'll really have a choice. One [group that defines political culture] is our agriculture. Our rural co-ops define a lot. Our legislators are going to listen to the co-op people, both electric and telephone, because they serve a good part of the state."

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

A. "I'm not familiar with the bill. . . [but] federal legislation in general on restructuring concerns me. And there again, on the rural versus urban kinds of issues I really wonder if the Congressional people know what that means to very rural states. Are they really just concerned with the majority of the people and what that's going to mean to New York City or Los Angeles? It certainly doesn't look like, at least in California, that their electric restructuring is benefiting the consumer, the families. Their bills are not seeing much change at all. It's the large industrial people that are going to reap the benefits there. I think everything is kind of like swimming through tapioca right now. Just trying to see out the other end of what Congress has said we're going to do and how to get that done without

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