was significant, however, was behind the scenes. Big Oil is worried. Johnson’s outgoing Treasury Secretary, Joseph Barr, started it off, really, speaking of the possibility of a “tax revolt.” The Treasury’s reluctance to release a privatelyconducted study of depletion, finally overridden by demands from congressmen, created a feeling of hush-up and cover-up. Now the likelihood that Nixon will nix Machiasport intensifies the intrinsic rage New Englanders have against the oilproducing states, especially Texas. When Ways and Means chairman Wilbur Mills said he wants to look into the tax-free fatcats’ returns, oil got the message. There is a lot of scampering, patching, and improvising going on now in the offices of the oil industry publicists. In this context, one wonders how smart it was of Occidental to choose this juncture to announce that Marvin Watson has become head of Occidental’s international subsidiary. It may turn out to be the master stroke that saves the situation for Occidentalor the third strike. Eggers vs. ‘Purcell? Paul Eggers of Wichita Falls, the tax lawyer turned bureaucrat, was a guest of Cong. Graham Purcell, D.-Wichita Falls, at a weekly Texas congressional delegation luncheon at the Capitol a few days ago. The 1968 GOP candidate for governor laughed at anti-Republican remarks and chatted with everybody at the luncheon, from which the state’s four Republican congressmen are excluded. But Eggers may have the last laugh. Some Republicans think he’ll quit his new job as counsel at the Treasury Department to return to Wichita Falls for a race against Purcell. At that same luncheon, Senator Yarbo rough had as his guest the Waco insurance executive and liberal figure Bernard Rapoport. With a straight face and a heavy drawl, Yarborough introduced Rapoport as “one of the few businessmen in Texas who supports me down the line.” Also at the luncheon as a guest was Dallas industrialist Jimmy Ling, whom Yarborough did not compliment. Wilson Challenges Utilities Austin Sen. Charles Wilson’s hearings on utility regulation were among the best-shows of the legislative session. Wilson orchestrated his down home witnesses into a symphony of complaints. State Affairs Committee members, many of whom were expected to be hostile to criticism of Texas’ utility barons, listened sympathetically as witnessesfrom their own senatorial districts charged the utilities with reaping exorbitant profits while providing unsatisfactory service. Cotton Gascamp, a constable from Wilson’s own Angelina County, explained that he doesn’t have much time to fulfill his peace-keeping duties because he has to deliver so many emergency messages to people whose telephones are out of order. “People in Angelina County think I can fix anything, and I usually can,” the constable said. “How long it takes me to get a phone fixed depends on how mad I get.” “We begged for a telephone for ten years, and when we got one we wasn’t much better off than we was without one,” said David Renfro of Zavala County. Renfro said if his nine-party line goes out after noon on Friday, it usually isn’t fixed until noon on Monday. Mrs. J. L. Telford of Cypress, who described herself as “just a middle-aged country housewife,” told the committee that Southwestern Bell has “failed to provide adequate, reasonable, or dependable phones for 15 years.” Living just a few miles north of Houston, she pays $39.90 a month for basic telephone service, and she has to call most of her neighbors long distance. JAMES RAMSEY of Hurst said he has relatives in Garland, 40 miles away, and relatives in Tennessee, 800 miles away. It costs him 55 cents for a three-minute call to Garland and 75 cents for a call to Tennessee. Ramsey said he often calls his 10 April 11, 1969 kinfolk in Tennessee to relay a message to the people in Garland because the connec tion is so bad between Hurst and Garland. The chairman of La Marque’s utility rate study committee, Sam Reid, explained that municipalities, which have regulatory power under Texas law, have neither the money nor the talent to challenge the corporate monoliths. “If we hire a $25,000 attorney, they will hire a $50,000 one. If we hire a $50,000 one, they’ll hire a $100,000 one. If we hire one who’s too good, they’ll hire him and put him on their payroll,” he said. The point is, Wilson and his witnesses insisted, Texas has poor service and high rates because utility monopolies operate without effective regulation. Wilson’s bill would create a nine-man state utilities commission to set rates and control standards of service. \(Specifics of the bill and another by Rep. Rex Braun were laid out in the Feb. 14 Wilson aimed most of his personal criticism at the electric power companies, pointing out that although Texas has only 5% of the U.S. population, in 1967 its electric utilities earned 30% of the combined excess profits of electric companies throughout the nation. He used U.S. Sen. Lee Metcalf’s definition of a utility overcharge, that being any profit over the national average of a 6% rate of return on investment. Wilson pointed out that two Texas holding companies, Central and Southwest and Texas Utilities, serve about 80% of the state’s population. Together the companies overcharged Texas consumers to the tune of $56 million in 1967, according to Metcalf’s figures. THE TALL, LANKY senator estimated that a state commission would cost’ about $2.5 million a year to operate, only about seven times the $350,000 Houston spends yearly to regulate its utilities. Only four Texas citiesHouston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antoniohave regulatory agencies. Most smaller cities cannot afford to hire rate experts. Using information from Metcalf’s book on independent electric companies, Wilson explained that Texas companies spend vast sums on public relations, all of it coming from consumers’ pocketbooks.’ Texas Power and Light, for example, advertises that it is a “regulated industry,” meaning that municipalities have the authority, though not the wherewithal, to set rates. Wilson told the committee that in the name of charity, utilities , cpptribute “shocking” sums to such right-wing organizations and publications as Harding Col 1. According to Metcalf, in 1963 Central . Power and Light, a subsidiary of Central and Southwest, conducted more than 10,000 inter- views, doubled its news releases from the year before, made 573 film showings, and reached 58,000 people through 271 speeches before civic, church, and other groups.
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