Group eyes agency changes - Laredo Morning Times

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					PAGE 6A                                                                                 Laredo Morning Times                                                                 Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Bush scolds Spain for                                                                                    Group eyes agency changes
withdrawing soldiers                                                                                     BY MATT JOYCE
                                                                                                         Associated Press Writer
                                                                                                                                            petitive deregulated mar-
                                                                                                                                                                             expect that they will keep us
                                                                                                                                                                             busy into the future.”
BY TERENCE HUNT                    telephone call with Prime                                                                                  The Office of Public             The commission staff
AP White House                     Minister        Jose      Luis                                          AUSTIN — The Sunset              Counsel was formed in            report also included a rec-
Correspondent                      Rodriguez Zapatero, who                                               Advisory         Commission        1983 to represent con-           ommendation to make sure
                                   Sunday ordered the 1,300                                              Monday         recommended         sumers when the PUC sets         the PUC has authority to
  WASHINGTON                  —    troops to return home as                                              abolishing the consumer            public utility rates.            maintain fairness in the
President Bush scolded             soon as possible.                                                     watchdog Office of Public            The commission staff           wholesale electricity and
Spain’s new prime minister           Zapatero placed the call to                                         Utility Counsel and giving         found that the need for a        telecommunications market.
Monday for his abrupt with-        Bush and the president                                                the        Public        Utility   stand-alone agency to rep-         The report said the PUC
drawal of troops from Iraq         “expressed his regret to                                              Commission greater over-           resent consumers has             should select a private com-
and told him to avoid actions      President Zapatero about the                                          sight of the competitive           diminished as the PUC’s          pany to monitor manipula-
that give “false comfort to        decision       to     abruptly                                        wholesale electric market.         role has changed. The com-       tions of the wholesale elec-
terrorists or enemies of free-     announce the pullout of                                                 The Office of Public Utility     mission now makes rules to       tric industry, such as when a
dom in Iraq.”                      Spanish troops from Iraq,”                                            Counsel and other con-             regulate competition rather      distributor creates conges-
  No country stepped forward       White House press secretary                                           sumer groups criticized the        than deciding fair electricity   tion on the network and then
immediately to take the place      Scott McClellan said.                  JOSE RODRIGUEZ                 report and argued that elim-       and      telecommunication       charges for reducing the
of Spain, which ranked sixth in      “The president urged that               ZAPATERO                    inating the office would hurt      rates, the report said.          congestion.
contributing troops, and U.S.      the Spanish withdrawal take                                           electric customers.                  Under the sunset report,         PUC spokesman Terry
                                                                    Powell and other administra-           “If our office is abolished,     the      Texas        Attorney   Hadley said the report is
officials braced for a withdraw-   place in a coordinated man-      tion officials.
al of troops from Honduras, as     ner that does not put at risk                                         there will be a considerably       General’s Office and the         intended for lawmakers,
                                                                      Boucher, taking a slap at          lower level of representation      PUC would take over the          and the PUC “will respond
well.                              other coalition forces in        Madrid, said “we were sur-
  “Honduras was affected by        Iraq,” McClellan said.                                                for residential and small          counsel’s office duties.         to their questions as they
                                                                    prised a little bit by the abrupt-   commercial customers in              Johnson said the transition    come up through the sunset
the decision of Spain,” State        “The president stressed the    ness” of the announcement.
Department          spokesman      importance of carefully con-                                          the electric industry,” said       to competitive markets has       review process.”
                                                                    However, he said the United          Clarence Johnson, the              made the counsel’s office          The sunset report also rec-
Richard Boucher said. El           sidering future actions to       States recognized the right of       office’s director of regulatory    increasingly valuable.           ommended changes intend-
Salvador and Nicaragua, the        avoid giving false comfort to    the new Socialist government         analysis.                            “Not surprisingly, industry    ed to prevent conflicts of
two other Central American         terrorists or enemies of free-   to respond to public wishes            The commission said its          pushes hard for rules that       interest on the board of
countries with peacekeeping        dom in Iraq,” McClellan said.    and to carry out a campaign          report sought to recom-            are convenient for them but      directors for the Electric
troops in Iraq, are holding          The new Spanish foreign        pledge.                              mend changes that would            that could harm customers,”      Reliability Council of Texas,
fast, the spokesman said.          minister,     Miguel Angel
                                                                                                         help the state best govern         he said. “These kinds of         or ERCOT, which manages
  Bush expressed unhappi-          Moratinos, is due to meet in
                                                                                                         the electric and telecommu-        proceedings keep us very         the state’s electric grid.
ness about Spain’s projected       Washington        Wednesday
                                                                                                         nications industries in com-       busy currently, and we
withdrawal in a five-minute        with Secretary of State Colin

Asbestos trust fund not expected to pass
BY JESSE J. HOLLAND                  Asbestos is a fibrous min-     “This legislation will protect       legislation    through    the
Associated Press Writer            eral commonly used until         the rights of those with             Senate.
                                   the mid-1970s for insulation     asbestos-related injuries              “The great majority of
  WASHINGTON                —      and fireproofing. When           and preserve American                asbestos      lawsuits    are
Republicans started a con-         inhaled, its tiny fibers can     jobs.”                               brought by those who are
gressional push Monday for         cause cancer and other ail-        Democrats say the bill             not even sick,” said Senate
creation of a billion-dollar       ments. The diseases often        does not provide enough              Judiciary Chairman Orrin
asbestos trust fund in a deal      take decades to develop.         money for victims to surren-         Hatch, R-Utah said.
that would give companies            Republicans want to set up     der their right to sue the             “This has brought an unac-
immunity from asbestos-            a trust fund that could reach    companies they think sick-           ceptable       division    of
related lawsuits.                  as much as $124 billion. The     ened them.                           resources to the wrong peo-
  Opponents and even some          fund would be financed by          “The result is a bailout for       ple. Nonmalignant claimants
supporters said that would not     businesses and insurance         big business that fails to pro-      take over 60 percent of the
work and that the measure          companies       and     speed    vide asbestos disease vic-           compensation,         leaving
had little chance of passage.      money to people with             tims fair and certain com-           mesothelioma victims with
  Senate Majority Leader Bill      asbestos-related diseases. In    pensation, William Samuel,           only 30 percent,” he said,
Frist, R-Tenn., on Tuesday         exchange, victims could not      the AFL-CIO’s legislation            referring to a rare and inop-
was expected to try and force      take asbestos makers to          department director, wrote           erable form of lung cancer.
the Senate to debate the bill,     court.                           lawmakers last week.                   “Many mesothelioma vic-
a move that requires 60              “Asbestos related litigation     “Because the deficiencies          tims aren’t able to recover
votes.                             has clogged the courts,          are too serious and too              any money at all because
  Few Democrats in the             depriving those with injuries    complex to be resolved on            the companies they would
Senate, which is split with 51     of a meaningful remedy and       the Senate floor, we urge            have sued are insolvent,”
Republicans, 48 Democrats          resulting in the bankruptcy if   you to oppose its considera-         Hatch said.
and independent Sen.               at least 60 companies and        tion,” he said.
James Jeffords of Vermont,         the loss of tens of thou-          Republicans say it is vital to
are seen as supporting the         sands of jobs,” the White        both      businesses       and
GOP effort.                        House said in a statement.       asbestos victims to get the

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