THE COALITION OF utilities calling to "Repeal PUHCA Now!" has pulled together a first-class team of lobbyists. They have been working intensely on Capitol Hill for more than two years. But they haven't won the easy victory they thought was within their grasp when the Republicans took over the Congress in 1994. The major flaw in the coalition's approach is classic: The pro-repeal lobbyists have been tireless talkers, but poor listeners.
Repeal activists have been right on target in arguing that the Public Utility Holding Company Act is outdated, cumbersome and unfair to registered and exempt utility holding companies alike. In fact, even most repeal opponents now agree that it is time for significant change. But while the pro-repealers have done a good job of describing the burdens that PUHCA imposes on utility companies, they haven't answered questions raised by those who fear PUHCA repeal will leave residential consumers exposed to market power abuses by a new wave of massive utility trusts.
Perhaps the time has come for the utility activists to step back and focus on why PUHCA repeal causes such genuine concern among state regulators and consumer advocates. Why not open a dialogue that can address the market power issues in ways that make sense?
The "Stand-Alone" Strategy (em Counterproductive
The first step in developing a new strategy for speeding action on PUHCA is to face the political reality. Repeal is not going to happen outside the context of broader restructuring.