The Making of Energy and Telecommunications Policy

By Georgia A. Persons | Go to book overview

nationwide results in a manner which is seen as reflective of the public interest. Circumstances had converged such that the idea of electric utility regulatory reform had the popular saliency and political potency to prevail.

The idea of lifeline rates was a different story. Part of the problem had to do with the manner in which the argument supporting the idea was structured. Although the problem of income deficits induced by rising energy costs gave rise to what ultimately became a push to reform electric utility regulation, there was no comprehensive proposal which placed lifeline provisions first in priorities and thrust and which organized other issues around that idea. As it was, lifeline provisions stood out as a contradiction to the main thrust of the rate reform bills (i.e. the shift to cost-based pricing). The dedicated lifeline bills were not only duplicative of the provision in the committee bill, but within the context of competing legislative proposals, they were sidelines to the main discourse. There were also no major champions of lifeline rates. The two organizations representing the interests of the elderly had given only modest support to the idea when it emerged in the hearings before the Special Committee. They had not participated at all in the legislative hearings. Most other participants in the hearings opposed the establishment of lifeline rates. The FEA opposed lifeline rates as anathema to the principle of cost-based pricing. Industrial and commercial users opposed lifeline because the cost of subsidizing such rates would presumably be shifted onto the industrial and commercial rate structure. The more influential environmentalists opposed lifeline because such rates did not clearly contribute to their higher priority of energy conservation. At the end of the 1976 hearings, lifeline and the issue of income support which it represented had been significantly upstaged by other concerns and other ideas.


NOTES
1
U.S. Congress House Committe on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Electric Utility Rate Reform and Regulatory Improvement: Hearings on H.R. 12461 and Related Bills. 94th Cong., 2nd sess., 1976, pt. 1, p. 1. Opening Statement of Congressman John Dingell.
2
Ibid., p. 588. Testimony of Honorable Frank Zarb, Administrator, Federal Energy Administration.
3
House. Electric Utility Rate Reform, pt. 2, pp. 1145-1156. Testimony and Prepared Statement of William Rosenberg, Assistant Administrator for Energy Resource Development, Federal Energy Administration.
4
House. Electric Utility Rate Reform, pt. 1, p. 594. Testimony of Honorable Frank Zarb.
5
Ibid., p. 594. Material submitted for the record by Honorable Frank Zarb.
6
House. Electric Utility Rate Reform, pt. 1, pp. 298-322. Testimony and supporting material submitted for the record by Robert W. Sant, Federal Energy Administration.
8
House. Electric Utility Rate Reform, pt. 2, pp. 1417-1448. Testimony and prepared statement of Honorable Richard Dunham, Chairman, Federal Power Commission.

-57-

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