PRC chairman seeks mailer feedback on rulemaking

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POTOMAC, MD -- The chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission is asking mailers for their input as it begins developing and implementing a modern system of rate regulation now that the postal reform bill has been signed into law.

Dan G. Blair, the new PRC chairman, said the PRC issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in late February asking for written comments by April 6 and responses to those opinions by May 6. The comments are supposed to be published on the PRC's Web site at www.prc.gov. However, Mr. Blair said that the PRC has not yet received any feedback.

"I hope our conversation today will generate innovative thinking on a system of rate regulation that will best serve the needs of the postal service, the mailing community and the entire nation," he told delegates at a U.S. Postal Service/PRC summit called "Meeting Customer Needs in a Changing Regulatory Environment."

"The commission has asked for comments to facilitate dialogue," he said. "I firmly believe that exchanging ideas and carefully evaluating alternatives is the best way to obtain the full potential benefits of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act."

Mr. Blair said that he and his PRC colleagues are charged with developing and implementing a new system of rate regulation.

"This is an extremely challenging and important responsibility," he said. "In order to do the best job possible, we need your help. We hope that all interested postal stakeholders, especially ... the postal service, will take time to think about the many requirements, objectives and factors set out by Congress, and provide us with advice on how best to balance those considerations."

Mr. Blair's emphasis was on moving quickly. After the bill was enacted in late December 2006, the PRC had 18 months to establish the regulations.

"If everyone waits and 'keeps their powder dry,' so to speak, the opportunity for dialogue will pass," he said. "We have a deadline. Congress gave the commission 18 months to enact implementing regulations, and we will meet that deadline."

Mr. Blair explained to about 300 people at the summit how the time frame of 18 months was chosen. He said the House bill allowed 24 months and the Senate bill offered 12. As a compromise, the Congressional negotiators agreed to 18.

"Eighteen months is precious little time for designing a modern system for rate regulation," Mr. Blair said. "But the question I have for you is whether it is in the best interest of the postal service and mailers for the commission to use the full 18 months?"

"Most of us in Washington have come to expect that when a government agency is given 18 months to do a job, it will take all 18 months -- unless it takes 24 or 30 months," he said. "But I think Congress hoped that we would all think a little bit outside the box and come up with new ways to meet the problems of the new century."

Later this summer the USPS will consult the PRC to develop and establish new service standards for all classes of mail, Mr. Blair said. In preparation, the agency has invited the PRC to observe Mailer Technical Advisory Committee meetings at which customer service requirements are being explored.

"All this will guide us in our thinking as we proceed to engage the community in developing the complaint process," Mr. Blair said.

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