Unexpected price increases for natural gas during the past winter heating season have stimulated action by state regulators across the country. Most recently, North Carolina and New Mexico have...
Peggy Welsh Winds Up: NARUC's New Exec Wants PUCs to Network with Congress Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
commissioners to meet with congressional members from their home states. The NARUC staff will lead the effort to build better lobbying
relationships with Congress, agencies, stakeholder groups and the media. Staff will visit the Hill to establish and maintain relationships and provide congressional aides with NARUC position documents. Rallies, too, could be in the works. Commissioners will be coached on how to approach members of Congress. A newsletter will highlight the program's activities.
This, indeed, would make for a new NARUC.
"We're reaching out to our members and encouraging them to get with their congressional delegations more often than they may have otherwise," Welsh says. "We are, from a staff perspective, hopefully giving them some tools to understand a certain bill that's on the Hill, that sort of thing.
"As an example, when they come to town for business that is not [directly related to] NARUC in particular, but just for their state commissions, we'll encourage them to call on us to let us know they're here, spend an extra couple of hours with us and let us accompany them to Capitol Hill to see their folks, to make their trip to Washington a 'two-fer,' if you will."
The association also will rely more heavily on its research arm, the National Regulatory Research Institute, to educate legislators.
Luckily, NARUC may win extra time to lobby Congress on electricity deregulation. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said in mid-May that he thought deregulation was unlikely this year and that, like telecommunications deregulation, it could take years.
"I agree it's probably not going to move as fast as everybody originally thought it was at the conclusion of the last Congress," Welsh says. "I think the reason the momentum has slowed somewhat up on the Hill is that a year ago we only had one state that had done anything significant on restructuring. Today we have over a dozen. A year from now, that number will be doubled or tripled."
She believes that since the states are moving forward, those on the Hill are stepping back and wondering what it means for them, what role they can play.
"We probably will see something in terms of real movement on a real bill in the House this Congress. I think Mr. Lott is correct. We probably won't have a bill signed and on the president's desk. ... It's harder than the telecom bill in that it has more money attached to it.
"We will hitch to legislation that allows the states to move forward on their own, while at the same time clarifying state authority. We do need some clarification from the Congress."
Welsh chuckles when asked if a potential squabble between the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency on the legislation may rival that on the floor of Congress.
"I haven't heard too much about that," she says. "Of course EPA, NRC, the Department of Defense (em we're going to see agencies all over town wanting to play a role in the electricity restructuring debate. ... EPA has their agenda, the protection of clean air