DMNews talks with Dan G. Blair, chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission
Q: How would you describe the PRC's role in relation to the USPS?
A: The role of the PRC is to ensure transparency and accountability of the US Postal Service. As chairman, I exercise day-to-day control over the administrative process of the commission, which comprises five full-time commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Q: Following the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, how has the role of the PRC changed?
A: Under the old law we were primarily involved in rate adjustment cases in which there would be 10-month litigation. And the commission had to recuse itself from the outside world and not have contact with mailers or other parties. Now, under the new law, we're transforming more into the role of a regulator with more oversight authority that gives us the ability to reach out more to the community. We now hear from individual mailers, nonprofit groups, magazine publishers. I want to encourage that, because our role requires that we have an open and continuing dialogue with the public as well as with the postal service.
Q: You just completed your first year as chairman. What were the PRC's major accomplishments in the past year?
A: When I came on in December of 2006, we were at the tail end of a rate case under the old law. We got that out about five days ahead of schedule. We also got the new rate regulations out in October of 2007, eight months early. That was significant because first, it showed we could get up and ready under the new law rather than proceeding under the old law, and second, by getting the new regulations effective sooner rather than later, it allowed the postal service to seek any rate increases under the new law rather than the old law.
I think everyone was well aware of the shortcomings of the old law. The new law gave the postal service a broad mandate and more flexibility to better act like a business, including its rate-setting structure. The PRC is going to ensure that new rates that the postal service proposes are in compliance with the law. Congress gave the postal service greater authority, but at the same time, it presented us as a counterbalance to ensure that the law is being obeyed.
Q: What's next for the PRC in 2008?
A: We'll issue our comments on the postal service's annual compliance report at the end of March. I would also anticipate that the postal service will be coming in with a notification for proposed rate changes within the first quarter. But nothing's formal yet.
One of the things that's on the front burner is developing additional rules regarding complaint procedures. We're working on additional rules for data reporting requirements for the postal service.
We still have two outstanding cases under the old law regarding negotiated service agreements that are proposed for two parties. We're working to complete those.