Applicants can only hope that a prompt review won't be even more difficult
By a unanimous vote, on December 18, 1996, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order No. 592, stating how it intends to evaluate utility mergers. The anticipation has ended, yet those hoping for a new approach and a quicker review are bound to be disappointed.
Order 592 is a "Policy Statement." As such, it only announces intentions; it imposes no new obligations and is not subject to judicial review until implemented in a specific case. It is, according to the FERC, a document that merely "updates and clarifies" the "procedures, criteria and policies" for determining whether mergers in the electric utility industry are consistent with the public interest under Section 203 of the Federal Power Act (FPA). %n1%n
Nevertheless, the FERC truly has improved the merger review process in at least one key respect: It no longer intends to apply all six factors of its 30-year-old Commonwealth test %n2%n to gauge whether a merger is consistent with the public interest. Instead, it will limit review to merger impacts in just three areas: 1) rates, 2) regulation, and 3) competition. %n3%n
"Competition," the commission says, "is now the best tool to discipline wholesale electric markets and thereby protect the public interest."