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Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1995

Citizens Utilities Expands in Telecom

W. Lynn Garner

Citizens Utilities Co. is continuing its aggressive expansion into the telecommunications business with an agreement to buy $292 million of telephone and cable television assets from Alltel Corp. However, the deal places the company's credit rating under increasing pressure.

Citizens will buy 109,000 telephone access lines in eight states, and acquire operations serving 7,000 cable television customers in four states. Alltel is a telecommunications and information services company based in Little Rock, AK.

Financial Opportunities

David Durham and Roger Campbell

The utility industry is in financial transition, both in the United States and abroad. In such times, it is often difficult to pinpoint the catalyst that carries an organization through a period of change. Successful analysis of efficient market models in the past can offer an excellent indication of how "restructuring" will affect utility industries in the United States and the world. Current efforts have come about because of the growing, and projected, need for power.

New York Moves Toward Performance-based Regulation for LEC

By Phillip S. Cross

A five-year, performance-based regulation plan for New York Telephone Co. (NYT) has been signed by the New York State Public Service Commission staff and 15 other parties. The plan calls for NYT to improve service quality, reduce prices, and foster competition in its service territory. NYT agreed to relinquish its right to file for general rate increases, but in exchange will receive increased regulatory flexibility.

The plan was negotiated over a two-year period and the PSC will review it over the next several months.

Minnesota DPS Blasts NSP Ethics

Lori A. Burkhart

In a final decision issued December 6, Commissioner Kris Sanda of the Minnesota Department of Public Service (DPS) found that Northern States Power Co. (NSP) threatened the St. Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium (Docket No. G,E002/CC-94-426). The consortium claimed NSP said it would withhold a contract to perform home energy audits if its Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) did not support dry-cask nuclear waste storage at NSP's Prairie Island nuclear plant.

While acknowledging the threat, Sanda found no evidence that the newly implemented bid process was tainted.

International Opportunities

Alex Henney

Competition in electricity is part of a general trend toward deregulation (em from airlines to stock markets (em that characterized economic evolution in much of the western world during the 1980s. The move to liberalize electricity in some countries has been spurred on by the disenchantment of politicians and large customers with the traditional monopolistic arrangements. Monopoly not only prevented customer choice, but was increasingly seen as inefficient and paternalistic.

Oregon Court Upholds LEC Collocation Rules

By Phillip S. Cross

The Oregon Court of Appeals has upheld rules implemented by state regulators requiring local exchange telephone carriers (LECs) to offer physical collocation to enhanced service providers. The court emphasized that the complaint brought by GTE Northwest Inc, an LEC, was limited to a "facial challenge" of the open network architecture (ONA) rules under state public utility law.

Consumers Power Calls for End to Rate Subsidies

W. Lynn Garner

Commercial and industrial customers of Consumers Power Co. paid almost $500 million above their actual cost of service to subsidize residential customers over the past five years, claims John W. Clark, Consumers Power senior vice president. "The current subsidy of residential electric rates by Michigan industry is shortsighted and costs Michigan jobs," he told a business roundtable in Detroit.

Oregon Rejects New "Buy vs. Build" Incentives

Phillip S. Cross

While investigating the "build versus buy" issue, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has upheld its existing least-cost planning and competitive-bidding regulations. The PUC rejected proposals to alter its existing integrated resource planning process by adding "market-test" or shared-cost-savings incentive regulation. Proponents said that the proposals were necessary to counteract a tendency by utility management to favor construction to boost rate base.

Florida Approves To Usher Test for DSM

By Phillip S. Cross

In setting utility conservation goals, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to permit the state's electric utilities to eliminate demand-side management (DSM) programs that increase rates for nonparticipating customers.

Westinghouse Cleared in Nuclear Reactor Case

Lori A. Burkhart

On December 6, the jury in a three-month-old trial found that Westinghouse Electric did not engage in fraud by supplying two nuclear reactors with allegedly faulty steam generators to Duquesne Light Co. and four co-owners of the Beaver Valley I and II nuclear plants. The utilities had sought $350 million in compensatory damages, and originally charged Westinghouse with RICO violations, breach of contract and warranty, as well as fraud. But in October, U.S.