But preference customers still remain a "vocal political force."
With eyes turned again toward Congress, and possible energy legislation, opponents have thrown up yet another challenge to the sale of low-cost, allegedly subsidized power by the federal power marketing administrations. This time, congressional foes of PMAs have gained allies in several investor-owned utilities and in the findings of a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, requested last year by Congress to aid its deliberations on electric restructuring.
While the congressional efforts of recent years to privatize PMAs have been suspended, critics of preference power believe the PMAs should be sold and the low-cost sales ended. They argue that both have become anomalies in a world moving toward markets. But defenders say preference power is needed to help those living in rural areas.
Others support PMAs "because they provide a form of competition to utilities," according to Chris Eckl, a government relations representative at the American Public Power Association. He says federal power was never meant to provide big profits for anyone, but to offer an alternative to private power. "It was a historic, well thought-out decision," says Eckl. "[Critics oppose PMAs], they say, to promote competition, but we maintain that they want to squelch competition before the market is even deregulated."
Looking at Rate Shock