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Frontlines

Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1995

the like. Brown adds that some marketers came from the gas side and had not begun electric operations: "[T]heir sense of [electric] information needs was still forming."

I got a different feel from Rich Felak, an engineer and consultant to Charles River Associates. "There were no deal-breakers at Newark," he says. "The needs of the utility group were not all that different from those of the marketers and IPPs (em they're supplemental." Felak also finds lessons from the gas side. "There are too many separate information systems for gas," says Felak. "They're too small to reach critical mass."

Back at NERC, Gorzelnik acknowledges that workshop attendees will have their own perspectives on what the final "strawman" should look like. But, as he says, "Newark was a test. No one has tried to do this before. And we have a very short time frame." NERC obviously hopes to learn some lessons from the gas pipelines. "First," says Gorzelnik, "You've got to know what data should go up on the electronic infornation network. Only after that do you worry about what kind of system is necessary to provide that information. You don't want to start throwing up new protocols in midstream."

By press time the FERC had extended the deadline for comments to July 6.

A Chilling Effect?

Will the FERC's NOPR on stranded investment have a chilling effect on electric municipalization? Maybe, says attorney Cathy Fogel, a law partner in the Washington, DC office of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand.

At a recent industry conference, I heard Fogel tell how an investor-owned utility (cognizant of the FERC's promise of stranded cost recovery) recently demanded a sizable upfront payment from a municipality (Fogel's client) that had proposed forming its own distribution utility. Fogel wonders whether such demands might become commonplace and discourage municipalization efforts.

You'll recall that the FERC says electrics should mitigate losses on stranded investment, and not anticipate to recover on lost wholesale contracts without a reasonable expectation that the other party would continue the contract. Well, Fogel thinks the FERC should extend those ideas to municipalization: If a utility must mitigate stranded investment, shouldn't it make a counteroffer if a municipality proposes to take over retail distribution? Moreover, why treat an expiring municipal franchise differently than an expiring wholesale contract? Says Fogel, "If municipalization is always a possibility, why should a utility maintain a reasonable expectation of serving the franchise forever?"

Too Hot to Handle

Mention nuclear waste and one imagines gridlock and broken promises. But things are changing, says Michael E. McCarthy, administrator of the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition. He considers nuclear waste the one area where Congress might take action later this summer.

It's all in the budget, says McCarthy.

This Congress, McCarthy explains, has fixated on deficit reduction. For lobbyists, that means you won't get your bill out of committee unless the chairman believes it will help directly to balance the budget. PURPA and PUHCA reform fail that test. But nuclear waste is now a budget issue, says McCarthy. He attributes that in part to the startling