WASHINGTON — Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) president Bob Keingstein met with members of the 106th Congress for the first time to raise awareness about the need for national legislation to prohibit unfair business practices by electric utilities that have ventured into the hvacr industry.

During his March 18 testimony to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and members of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, Keingstein said that utilities exploit consumers and create an unlevel playing field for small business owners when they “cross-subsidize,” or unfairly increase their market share through their unregulated affiliates.

“We in the [hvacr] market now compete with the affiliates of many utilities,” said Keingstein, who is senior vice president of AFGO Mechanical Services Inc., Woodside, N.Y.

“We aren’t against competition as long as it’s fair,” he said. However, “Subsidies distort the concept of a free market and threaten the goals of electric utility deregulation — lower prices and choice.”

In ACCA’s winter 1998-99 member survey, 94% of contractors who responded rated unfair utility cross-subsidization as a “significant” issue to them and their businesses.

According to Keingstein, working to eliminate unfair utility competition will continue to be the association’s number-one federal legislative priority during his tenure.