Having now passed a rule that takes very few chances, the FERC must decide what's in store for investors.
Whatever happened to the Sunshine Act - the law that tells government officials to hold their meetings in the open?
That's what all of us in the trade press wanted to know on Dec. 15, when Chairman James Hoecker kept us waiting all morning and well into the afternoon, while he and his cohorts at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission debated in secret on the ninth floor over the future of the electric utility industry. Any fight over policy (they must have been fighting) was kept hidden. Tired of waiting, I wandered across the hall to try out the salad bar in the FERC's "Sunshine Cafe," and sat down with a reporter from Energy Daily. By the time the commissioners came downstairs at 1:30 p.m. to convene their 10 a.m. meeting, they had ironed out their differences. The deal was done. The stage set. A media event.
The anticlimax saw the FERC vote 4-0 to approve Order 2000. That's the moniker for the final rule issued officially on Dec. 20 to govern regional transmission organizations, or "RTOs." Commissioner Vicky Bailey recused herself from the case (and from the Alliance order of the same date in Docket ER99-3144), which may explain why it took so long for Hoecker to get his ducks in a row.
Yet the day was not wasted. On the plus side, the long wait gave us some time to reminisce on press row. We recalled the days of Commissioners Charles Stalon and Charles Trabandt - when you could go to a FERC meeting and actually see policy being made. But no more. Now the chairman builds his consensus behind closed doors. We in the press feel cheated. How did the group reach a decision? What ideas got left on the cutting room floor?