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Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1995

Texas Opens Up Local Phone Service

Lori A. Burkhart

Texas Gov. George Bush on May 26 signed into law a comprehensive bill, H.B. 2128, that makes sweeping changes in the way the state regulates telecommunications. The bill allows competitors to provide local exchange services by obtaining a certificate of operating authority (COA) or to resell local services through a service-provider certificate of operating authority. The COA is designed for facilities-based local exchange, and requires competitors to serve customers within a 27-square-mile area within 30 days of customer request.

DSM Phase-out Ordered for LDCs

Phillip S. Cross

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has decided to phase-out existing demand-side management (DSM) incentives for the state's natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs). It said that any claims by LDCs for future recovery of lost margins and incentives will be examined in light of changes in the gas industry and the DSM marketplace. It added that the LDCs should propose a phase-out of their lost margin and DSM incentive programs in conjunction with proposals for incentive-based ratemaking or in their future DSM cases. Re Boston Gas Co., D.P.U. 94-15, Apr.

PSE&G Makes Innovative Emission Reduction

Lori A. Burkhart

Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) and Merck & Co. have announced a trade of emission reduction credits as part of a broad initiative to develop a market-based response to combat the ozone nonattainment problems in the Northeast. PSE&G will sell a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 75 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution reductions, called "surplus discrete emission reductions" (SDRs), to Merck in 1995. Merck will use the SDRs to comply with environmental requirements at two industrial boilers.

California Extends Incentive Rate Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission has issued a "positive" performance rating for the first year of a two-year, experimental performance-based rate program for San Diego Gas and Electric Co.'s gas procurement and electric generation and dispatch activities. It extended the plan another year, to facilitate the second year's annual review, and said it expects the plan to stay in place "well into the third year" of the trial. Re San Diego Gas & Elec. Co., Decision 95-04-051, Applica. 92-10-017, Apr. 26, 1995 (Cal.P.U.C.).


Illinois Joins Reform Movement

Lori A. Burkhart

The Illinois legislature has established a committee to study reforming the electric utility industry in Illinois through competition. The Joint Committee on Electric Utility Reform will be guided by Energy Choice 2000, a proposal that would allow utilities to compete for large customers as of 2000. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) would have the power to let residential and small commercial customers to select their supplier by 2006. The proposal was developed by the Coalition for Consumer Choice, which comprises various Illinois businesses as well as Illinois Power.

Court sides with QF on Avoided Costs

Phillip S. Cross

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has overturned a decision by state regulators that would have allowed Commonwealth Electric Co.

Iowa PURPA Law Comes Under Firet

Lori A. Burkhart

Midwest Power Systems Inc. (MPS) has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to void the Iowa law requiring Iowa utilities to pay six cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by qualifying facilities (QFs). MPS

argues that the Iowa price is more than twice what federal law imposes under a market-based rate. MPS and the three other investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in Iowa had asked the state legislature earlier this year to make the Iowa law conform to federal law, but the bill was not passed.

Court Upholds FERC's PBOP Ruling

Phillip S. Cross

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policy allowing utilities to recover costs to switch from cash to accrualaccounting for post-retirement benefits other than pensions (PBOP) under SFAS 106.

Otter Tail Pushes PMA Privatization Pilo

Lori A. Burkhart

Otter Tail Power Co. (OTP) has asked to manage the operations and marketing activities of the Billings Marketing Area of the Western Area Power Administration's (WAPA) Eastern Pick-Sloan system (a multistate region). According to OTP president John MacFarlane, the proposal aims to smooth the transition to privatization.

Georgia Sets Rules on Price-cap Requests

Phillip S. Cross

The Georgia Public Service Commission has completed the first step required to implement the state's Telecommunications and Competition Development Act of 1995 (which mandates changes in telephone regulation) by issuing rules for local exchange carriers seeking to abandon traditional rate regulation in favor of alternative performance-based rate plans, including price caps. It issued separate filing requirements to obtain certificates for competitive local exchange service (also permitted under the new state law).