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PRC Presiding Officer Suggests Rate Settlement

Acting chairman of the Postal Rate Commission George Omas has suggested that because of the financial crisis the U.S Postal Service is experiencing, the USPS and the mailing community should consider a rate case settlement as opposed to the long, often adversarial proceedings.

A rate case settlement basiclly measn that rates could be implmented sooner rather than later. Is it unclear, however, if rates could be increased under this procedure.

The last time a rate case settlement took place was in 1994.

Many in the mailing community believe a rate case settlement is a good idea, because it will allow mailers and he USPS to focus efforts and resources on the more important task of securing funding to help in these extraordinary expenses.

A rate case settlement will also clear the docket at the Postal Rate Commission and allow the USPS to present new business proposals such as Negotiated Service Agreements.

“I have often heard it said that there could never be a settlement in an omnibus rate case. There are too many conflicting interests, and too much money is at stake,” Omas said. “But it seems to me that if there was ever a time when 'business as usual' was not an attractive course of action, and when cooperative efforts to promptly resolve issues through settlement might be the right course of action, that time is now.”

Omas made the comments at Thursday's pre-hearing conference for the current rate case.

Omas continued, “I suggest that participants concerned with the justification for the request currently before the commission consider the potential for new information that might justify higher rates. I also suggest that the postal service consider steps it could take to ease the impact of large increases and minimize disruption.

“None of us want to be here in May arguing about this case, knowing that the postal service is at risk and is preparing to file an additional request to make up for losses incurred while this docket was going forward,” Omas said. “I urge all participants to recognize that extraordinary times warrant extraordinary acts.”

Omas also appointed Daniel Foucheaux, postal service chief counsel, to act as settlement coordinator. He asked that Foucheaux give participants 72 hours to consider his remarks and then to contact participants to determine if a settlement can be arrived at in this case.

Further, he asked that Foucheaux report to the commission by November 2 as to whether a settlement might be possible and what steps the commission might take to reach an outcome.

A rate case settlement hearing, held by Foucheaux, is taking place in Washington today.

“If the Postal Service is not financially sound after this crisis is over, it will not be the fault of the statutory system for changing rates. Any fault will lie with those people who fail to recognize that innovative action was both possible and necessary. I urge everyone connected with this process: those of us here today, those at L'Enfant Plaza, and those in boardrooms around the nation to be statesmanlike, and to work together to proactively meet the serious new challenges facing the postal system,” Omas said.

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