On the morning after Labor Day, back from one last beach fling, Wall Street Journal assistant features editor Max Boot published an editorial castigating California Gov. Pete Wilson for his alleged failure to "take a stand" on electric deregulation in the Golden State ("California's Governor isn't Plugged into Deregulation Debate," Sept. 5, 1995, p. A15). "There's a leadership vacuum here," writes Boot. "Governor Wilson is partly responsible for the problem ... he appointed Mr. Fessler and the other PUC members. But he hasn't taken a stand on PoolCo or a direct hand in the negotiations."Well, good. But let's not stop there. Why not ask Bill Clinton when he last lunched with Elizabeth Moler to chew the fat on interstate electric markets? Have the two even met? Now I can't say for sure if Pete Wilson can tell a purchased-power contract from a Contract for Differences. But I'm willing to bet that Bill Clinton can't distinguish between point-to-point and network transmission. And yet, the changes that lie buried between the lines in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on stranded investment and electric transmission, issued last Spring by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), certainly appear much more drastic than those found in the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which required an act of Congress.
With Chair Moler at the helm, and Bill Clinton far in the background, the FERC treads cautiously but unfettered as it remakes the largest single industry in the country. Whose idea was it?
In my time I can remember at least three instances when state governors have played a leading role in the policy of electric regulation.