July 1, 2001
L.A. Loves a Loophole
There's no getting around it...
Peggy Welsh Winds Up: NARUC's New Exec Wants PUCs to Network with Congress Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
"When they come to town ... we'll ... accompany them to Capitol Hill ... to make their trip to Washington a 'two-fer,' if you will."
Paul Rodgers knocked NARUC on its ear last July when he announced his resignation as executive of that century-old association.
Rodgers, also general counsel, had served the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners for more than 30 years.
His unexpected move came in the midst of strategic planning at NARUC. The blueprint called for the association to boost its influence in Congress and win more notice from members in the face of what the association saw as declining interest among federal lawmakers in state regulatory matters.
Undaunted, NARUC didn't sit back. In November, four months after Rodgers gave notice, NARUC amended its constitution to allow persons other than attorneys to serve under contract as the association's day-to-day executive. This change (em away from legal scholarship toward deal making and a more engaged constituency (em paved the way for Peggy Welsh, NARUC's new executive. In hiring her, NARUC appeared to say, "We want someone who can sell ideas rather than develop policy,"
especially when it comes to electric industry deregulation.
The outspoken, decidedly unlawyerly like Welsh is herself an alumnus of another electric industry association. Welsh is also a government relations advocate who started her career as an aid in both the U.S. Senate and the Ford Administration. She makes eye contact like a sales rep and falls easily into the free-flowing banter of a seasoned lobbyist.
"I'm not shy," she insists.
Just days after her third month on the job, Welsh sits in her Pennsylvania Avenue office, the Capitol rotunda prominently framed by a window. The invisible mantle of "the new NARUC" sits squarely on her shoulders, and if it's anything like her suit, it's flame red.
How will Welsh lead NARUC?
"Our job is to tell the Congress where the states are," Welsh says. "I consider NARUC to be a microcosm of the Congress. We never expect Congress to come to consensus. We expect Congress to take hard votes. Yet we expect the states to come to consensus on what are often regional issues, where markets are very different.
"We cannot always have the same message of 'don't tread on our authority,' because that is, unfortunately, what some people believe NARUC's reputation to be. So where we cannot agree, we need to articulate that and articulate that clearly."
Is Welsh suggesting that NARUC might abandon its long-standing preference for full harmony among members? No. Welsh insists that NARUC will convey regional differences to Congress, yet won't stray from its ecumenical strategy. "We will develop policy based on consensus and that is how we will continue to do policy," she says.
Is NARUC walking a tightrope? Welsh, for one, is accustomed to tough jobs.
Last December, she helped unite the Electric Generation Association and the National Independent Energy Producers to form the Electric Power Supply Association. She had been EGA's executive director for four years (em a "push-the-envelope stakeholder group," as Welsh describes it. She had little