State utility commissioners have gone on record asking Congress to "call them first" before it legislatively restructures the electric industry.
That resolution prompted some of the liveliest debate at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' (NARUC) Winter Committee meetings. About 1,000 people attended the 10-day event in Washington, DC, February 21 to March 1.
NARUC's carefully worded "straw man" resolution (em nicknamed by certain commissioners who believe it carries little weight (em notes that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has yet to act on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on open transmission access (Mega-NOPR). Some NARUC officials feel the Mega-NOPR could resolve as much as 90 percent of the policy Congress might tackle. The resolution's last paragraph was the most contentious:
"State experimentation and analysis of retail issues is ongoing, and because FERC's policies affecting wholesale markets have not been implemented, the 104th Congress should not enact legislation at this point which would impose a single approach that may ignore the differences in state and regional circumstances, or which preempts or interferes with state authority to adopt and implement policies for retail service."
The paragraph prompted this comment from Robert W. Gee of the Texas Public Utilities Commission, NARUC's Electricity Committee chair: "This language, obviously, was language we spent the most time on. . . . I think one can argue that we are attempting to send a positive message to Congress, with some caveats."