Feds prefer legislative solution for now, but warn of bid-rigging, cartel behavior later on, after deregulation.
One of the nation's top antitrust officials told the House Judiciary Committee in June that moves toward utility deregulation should focus first on open access to the transmission grid (em and then resolve that problem through rulemaking or legislation, not antitrust enforcement.
"Antitrust is probably not the best way to address access," said Robert Pitofsky, Federal Trade Commission chair. "I think legislation and FERC regulation is a better way of doing it."
Pitofsky could offer no legislative solutions.
"I think you've put your finger on the most difficult question in the entire area of deregulation," the FTC official told Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) "You can have competition in generation. You may have competition at retailing. But if monopoly power persists at distribution, as in the transmission phase, there will be difficulties. I don't really have an answer at this point as to what kinds of legislation would be adequate."
Pitofsky testified at what Judiciary Committee Chair Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) called the panel's first foray into the antitrust aspects of electricity restructuring. It was uncertain whether future hearings would affect restructuring legislation, or the focus of hearings held by Rep. Dan Schaefer (D-Colo.). Hyde said he wouldn't impinge on the Commerce Committee's jurisdiction.
At press time, no further Judiciary Committee hearings on antitrust and deregulation had been scheduled.
Pitofsky and A. Douglas Melamed, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S.