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Regulation works



The individual consumer is no match for a giant utility. His government is his equalizer. A few years back, the legislature succumbed to special interests (again) and surrendered the people’s defense, enacting legislation to end state regulation of electricity. After the Enron explosion, the lawmakers reversed course and re-regulated. Friday’s order from the state Public Service Commission shows the wisdom of that decision.

Entergy, Arkansas’s biggest power company, had asked the PSC to approve a $106.5 million rate increase, and a return on equity of 11.25 percent. Instead of agreeing that Entergy wasn’t making enough money, the PSC found it was making too much. The commissioners ordered a rate reduction of $5.67 million, and approved a return on equity of 9.9 percent. The shock in the Entergy office must have been severe. A fly on the wall would have gotten an earful, no doubt.

In the order, the PSC denied Entergy requests to recover certain expenses from its customers. The Commission reduced by more than $21 million the amount of incentive pay and stock options proposed for Entergy executives, and it rejected outright Entergy’s request that its customers pay for entertainment expenses that included tickets to sporting events and concerts, golf balls and golf tournaments, and dinners and alcohol for political figures. Dick Cheney will shed bitter tears that an American energy company could be treated this way.

We don’t know how much of the credit for this decision belongs to the commission’s new chairman, Paul Suskie, and how much to the other two commissioners, Sandra L. Hochstetter and Daryl E. Bassett. But we remember that when Suskie was appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe early this year, there was speculation that the Commission might become more pro-consumer. Unlike some commissioners, Suskie had no utility connections. He had held elective office, and, it was said, might seek it again. Mention of Suskie requires mention of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who opposed the Entergy request, and who, coincidentally, defeated Suskie in last year’s election. No problem. There’s sufficient glory to go around.

Behind Bulgaria

The Associated Press reports that the last three dancing bears in Bulgaria have been retired through the efforts of animal-welfare activists. Dancing bears are trained in a particularly cruel manner, painful rings put through their noses when they’re young to ensure submission, then forced to walk on burning embers and jump from one foot to another to lessen the pain. Even Bulgaria no longer tolerates such barbaric treatment of animals. If those bears’ owners had brought them to Arkansas, where the Farm Bureau blocks animal-cruelty laws, the animals might still be enduring torture, perhaps performing at a Farm Bureau convention.

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