Utilities: Decision on the Snake

In the struggles for power-dam sites along the nation's rivers, publicly owned utilities have long enjoyed substantial advantages over private companies. Exempt from local taxation, able to finance their ventures with low-cost, tax-free bonds, they can offer consumers cheap power—at the general expense of taxpayers everywhere. And the Federal Power Act gives them preference over private claims to the same water resources.

Last week, in a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck a major blow in behalf of private power companies. The three-judge court upheld a 1964 Federal Power Commission decision licensing Pacific...

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