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PUBLISHER, RONNIE DUGGER 0 The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1979 Vol. 71, No. 14 July 27, 1979 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. MANAGING EDITOR Linda Rocawich ASSOCIATE EDITOR Eric Hartman PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid, Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Bob Sindermann Jr. STAFF ASSISTANTS: Christopher Brown, Jeannette Garrett, Edward Humes, Matthew Lyon, Donna Ng, Anne Norman, Beverly Palmer, Martha Owen, Karen White, Harris Worcester CONTRIBUTORS: Thomas D. Bleich, Ave Bonar, Berke Breathed, Warren Burnett, Bob Clare, Jo. Clifton, Bruce Cory, Keith Dannemiller, Jeff Danziger, Chandler Davidson, John Henry Faulk, David Guarino, Roy Hantric, Doug Harlan, Dan Heard, Jack Hopper, Dan Hubig, Molly Ivins, Susan Lee,Tim Mahoney,Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Hans-Peter Otto, Alan Pogue, Lois Rankin, Ray Reece, Laura Richardson, Andrew Saldaria, Ben Sargent, Lisa Spann, John Spragens Jr., Sheila R. Taylor, Stanley Walker, Lawrence Walsh, Eje Wray, Ralph Yarborough A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and con tents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him, Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. BUSINESS STAFF: Cliff Olofson, Joe Espinosa Jr. ADVERTISING SALES REPRESENTATIVE: Rhett Beard, The Texas Observer Editorial and Business Office 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 OBSERVER Texas kJBSERVER Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July: 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. ISSN 0040-4519. years $40. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfthned by MCA, 21 Han -jstown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to: 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Rating the PUC An A-minus from Wall Street, a De-minus from Consumers By Jack Hopper and Eric Hartman Austin As regulatory agencies go, the Public Utility Commission of Texas established in 1975 is still quite young. In fact, it is the newest state utility commission in the country. But the PUC, charged primarily with the task of controlling the state’s telephone and electric utility monopolies, has already evolved a long way toward what many regulatory agencies become only in their dotagea passive helpmate of the economic power it is supposed to hold in check. Though it is not yet irredeemably a captive of Texas’ big utilities, the PUC is captivated by the economic philosophy of these private corporations and their Wall Street financiers, and the public interest has suffered accordingly. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way, of course. The commission was called into existence four years ago by the 64th Legislature to “operate as a substitute for [the] competition” that is necessarily lacking in the monopolistic business of providing utility service to Texas consumers. This business currently earns Texas utilities about $10 billion a year, and the legislative mandate to the PUC is to “assure rates, operations, and services which are just and reasonable to the consumers and to the utilities.” Behind this language in the Public Utility Regulatory Act of 1975 lay 40 years of intermittent agitation by consumers for relief from excessive utility rates and profits and from poor utility service, especially for rural customers who lacked even the meager protection afforded by municipal regulatory bodies. Ratepayer pressure finally forced legislators to act only after ousted executives of Southwestern Bell exposed the pervasive mischief engaged in by their company at the expense of Texas Cover art: Berke Breathed