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