Since the federal Court of Appeals decision in the Calvert Cliffs case over 25 years ago, no power plant may be built without a thorough socioeconomic impact statement. Yet, schemes to alter the entire supply system of a state - or even the nation - are currently proposed with only cursory attention to socioeconomic consequences. Despite heated rhetoric, little discussion focuses on how the people in a given service area will be affected by deregulation and its handmaidens - retail wheeling and stranded investment.Nowhere is this lack of attention more apparent than in the two most recognized depictions of restructuring - the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Mega-NOPR) on stranded investment and open-access transmission, from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the final restructuring order issued about five months ago by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Despite its magnum opus character, the FERC document offers no meaningful assessment of the potential impact of this grand scheme on real people. Indeed, it was like pulling teeth to get the FERC even to recognize that air-quality consequences should be assessed in a systematic fashion. Similarly, the CPUC Order, despite a seemingly endless name-dropping of groups representing minorities and the environment, includes no coherent statement on socioeconomic impacts whatsoever.