Updated and Expanded

Our public utilities build and operate the infrastructure that supports modern economies. Lives depend on their performance. Defining and demanding that performance is the job of regulators. By setting standards, compensating the efficient and penalizing the inefficient, regulation aligns private behavior with the public interest. 

Regulators are real people. Case outcomes are determined not only by facts, law and policy, but also by commissioners' personal attributes—their purposefulness, decisiveness, independence, creativity, ethics and courage. These attributes, or their absence, influence regulators' actions. Some regulators merely "balance" and "preside"; others create vision, inspire performance and lead. Even the most purposeful, educated, decisive, and independent regulators—those who make the tough calls and take the right actions—face obstacles: the forces of self-interest, short-term thinking and political inertia that can undermine regulation’s purpose. 

By exploring the connections among regulators' attributes, actions, and obstacles, these 60 essays reveal the ingredients for effectiveness.


Table of Contents

Click on blue links for excerpts.

Part One—Attributes of Effective Regulators
1. Purposeful
2. Educated
3. Decisive
4. Independent
5. Disciplined
6. Synthesizing
7. Creative
8. Respectful
9. Ethical
10. A Letter to Governors and Legislators: On Appointing Excellent Regulators

Part Two—Actions of Effective Regulators
11. Commissions Are Not Courts; Regulators Are Not Judges
12. The Regulatory Mission: Do We “Balance” Private Interests, or Do We Align Them
       with the Public Interest?

13. Regulatory Brainstorming: When and Where?
14. Regulatory Multitasking: Does It Do Long-Term Damage?
15. Regulatory Literacy: A Self-Assessment
16. “Smart Grid” Spending: A Commission’s Pitch-Perfect Response to a Utility’s Seven

17. Alfred Kahn, “Prophet of Regulation”

Part Three—Political Pressures
18. "Politics” I: The Public and Private Versions
19. "Politics" II: How Can Regulators Respond?
20. "Regulatory Capture” I: Is It Real?
21. "Regulatory Capture" II: What Are the Warning Signs?
22. “Regulatory Capture” III: How Can Commissioners Avoid and Escape It?
23. The War of Words: Competition vs. Regulation I
24. The War of Words: Competition vs. Regulation II
25. Is Learning to Regulate Like Learning to Cook?

Part Four—Regulatory Courage
26. "Affordable" Utility Service: What Is Regulation's Role?
27. Low Rates, High Rates, Wrong Rates, Right Rates
28. "Protect the Consumer"—From What?
29. Separating Policy Mandates From Cost Consequences: Will the Public Lose Trust?
30. Prohibiting Discrimination and Promoting Diversity: Is There a Regulatory Obligation
      to Society?

31. "All of the Above" Is Not a National Energy Policy
32. Supporter-as-Critic: An Expanded Role for Regulatory Professionals

Part Five—Jurisdiction: Power Is a Means, Not an End
33. Legislatures and Commissions: How Well Do They Work Together?
34. It’s April—Do You Know Where Your Legislatures Are?
35. More on Legislative–Regulatory Relations: Layers, Protections, and Cost-Effectiveness
36. Federal–State Jurisdiction I: Pick Your Metaphor
37. Federal–State Jurisdiction II: Jurisdictional Wrestling vs. Coordinated Regulation
38. Federal–State Jurisdiction III: Jurisdictional Peace Requires Joint Purpose
39. Federal–State Jurisdiction IV: A Plea for Constitutional Literacy
40. Intra-Regional Relations: Can States’ Commonalities Outweigh Their Differences?

Part Six—Practice and Procedure
41. “Framing”: Does It Divert Regulatory Attention?
42. Decisional Defaults: Does Regulation Have Them Backwards?
43. Utility Performance: Will We Know It When We See It?
44. “Prudence”: Who’s Minding the Store?
45. Rate Case Timing: Alertness or Auto-Pilot?
46. Interconnection Animus: Do Regulatory Procedures Create a “Tragedy of the  Commons”?
47. Interconnection Animus: The Readers React
48. Regulatory "Settlements": When Do Private Agreements Serve the Public Interest?
49. Competition for the Monopoly: Why So Rare?

Part Seven—Regulatory Organizations
50. Regulatory Resources I: Why Do Differentials Exist?
51. Regulatory Resources II: Do the Differentials Make a Difference?
52. The Resource Gap Grows: What Are a Commission’s Duties?
53. Commission Effectiveness: How Can We Measure It?
54. Commission Budgets: How Do We Know When We're "Worth It"?
55. Commission Positioning I: Five Actions for Influence
56. Commission Positioning II: Can "Vision" Avoid "Too Big To Fail"?
57. Commission “Branding”: Can It Improve Utility Performance?
58. Pharmacies and Regulatory Conferences: Do They Have Anything in Common?

Part Eight—Conclusions
59. Essential to Effectiveness: Community Acceptance of Regulation's Mission
60. A Regulatory Thanksgiving