PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY SPOKE WITH FEDERAL Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman James Hoecker shortly after the Clinton Administration released its long-awaited Comprehensive Electricity Competition Plan.
Although Hoecker sees new legislation as only "the remotest of possibilities" for this session of Congress, he expects that the "real debate" will begin next year, with environmental issues perhaps proving to be the most difficult to solve.
Are mergers bad for competition? "Not necessarily," he says. The chairman wonders whether the question will turn out to be moot since, as he predicts, "Utilities will get bigger."
Hoecker took over the chairman's job last summer. His term runs until June 30, 2000. Is life at the top what he expected?
"I view my role as a consensus builder¼ If the split on the commission is intractable, however, I have to make a decision."
On Federal Legislation
What do you think about the Clinton Administration's restructuring proposal?
I think it's potentially the most significant contribution to the legislative debate. The administration apparently spent many months trying to reconcile competing interests and trying to achieve substantial balance in its package. It reflects consideration of what I think are the most important issues in electric restructuring (em the future of retail competition, recovery of stranded costs, and the interface with environmental issues.