HAS DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN STATE HOUSE AND COMmission stalled electric industry restructuring efforts in New York?
Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly, insists the Legislature is busy working on comprehensive restructuring legislation for the state. He has expressed dismay at efforts of the New York Public Service Commission, which is restructuring the industry utility by utility.
Silver believes legislation offers the best chance to introduce competition quickly and efficiently, rather than through multiple, individual restructuring plans. Moreover, there appears to be general agreement in the state on the need for action regarding stranded costs, securitization and the state's gross receipts tax.
In February, at a meeting of financial analysts in New York City, Silver noted that the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons had withdrawn from restructuring hearings because it had felt the PSC had left the public out of the process. He questioned whether the PSC had "forgotten" the people who pay the bills: "The problem in New York is that there is no one to talk to."
Speaking at the same meeting, then deputy PSC chairwoman Maureen Helmer had disagreed, defending the commission's piecemeal process, built around decisions in individual cases.
Last month, however, the outlook may have shifted, as the republican PSC chairman John O'Mara announced he would resign from the commission effective April 15. That move gave Gov. George Pataki the opportunity to name Helmer the new PSC chair, plus appoint a new commissioner to serve out the remainder of O'Mara's term, which expires on Jan. 31, 1999.
Battling Over Tactics