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1996 Regulators' Forum

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

here at the commission. They told us they would not go and deal separately with the Assembly. And at the same time, they were apparently secretly doing so. I don't know what the prospects are for a similar restructuring model being accepted in [Massachusetts and New Hampshire]. If it's not, I don't think the Rhode Island legislation is workable. It would have to be amended." [End of comments by Malachowski]


Comments by Douglas L. Patch, chairman, New Hampshire 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 would suggest it really ought to maintain close contact with the commissioners who make up the organization to ensure that the states are key players in any policy matters that NARUC is going to take positions on, particularly before Congress. I see a director who needs to be in touch with the membership, and yet at the same time, someone who understands the Washington scene and how NARUC can best make its presence known."

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

A. "Our legislature is very active and I would suggest probably as well educated, if not better, than any legislature in the country. . . . Their constituents, the customers of the utilities here in the state, are after them because they're concerned about high rates.

"We've tried to work very closely with the legislature to establish a roundtable on restructuring the electric industry. . . . There's an oversight committee that grew out of the major restructuring legislation that passed during the 1996 session . . . a 14-member committee. . . . They're certainly aware of what's going on, they meet regularly, they'll be monitoring what we do to carry out the legislation that passed this session. I haven't found any situations where I thought they were being intrusive."

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. "Very much so. They have pressured our legislature . . . [and] us too. They are participants, intervenors in the dockets we have to deal with on these issues, and a number of small customer groups. Consumer advocates are very active. We have 400 members in our House of Representatives and we are, I think, the third largest legislative body in the free world. . . . There are only 24 members in our Senate. Particularly in the House, there's a lot of contact between constituents, ratepayers, and legislators . . . . That has an impact on how we do business here in New Hampshire."

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

A. "It's encouraging to see somebody in Congress take the time to find out what states' concerns are with regard to restructuring the electric industry. . . . There are some