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Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1995

Commentary: Pro & Con

Ferd. C. Meyer

Senior V.P. & General Counsel

Central & South West Corp.

While I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Hawes's conclusion that outright repeal of the 1935 Act (PUHCA) is needed, I disagree with his conclusion that the odds are currently against repeal.

The general enthusiasm for deregulation in Congress and the Administration (as noted by Mr. Hawes), and the compelling case for repeal, will, I believe, overcome arguments opposing repeal of a statute that is the embodiment of unnecessary and burdensome regulation.

GAO Wants 10-Percent Rate Hike for TVA

Lori A. Burkhart

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chief operating officer

Joe Dickey is displeased with a General Accounting Office (GAO) report advocating a 10-percent rate hike for TVA. Dickey says that TVA has held rates steady for eight straight years and plans to hold them stable for at least another two. He notes that the report focuses on the past and suggests privatizing TVA as an option. Dickey adds that the GAO criticizes TVA cost,s but ignores that TVA has cut its workforce by half since 1988 and its costs by $800 million.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Last Spring I heard superintendent William "Billy" Ray tell how the folks down home at his Glasgow, KY, municipal utility took a flier on the information superhighway. They gambled and won by constructing a new utility-owned cable television system to offer competitive TV service to their municipal electric customers.

MidAmerican Energy Gets Green Light

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the proposed merger of Midwest Power Systems, Inc. and Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric Co. to form MidAmerican Energy Co. as consistent with the public interest (Docket No. EC95-4-000).

The City of Independence, MO, asked the FERC to condition the merger on MidAmerican providing some form of protection against merger-related rate increases, but the FERC found no evidence that costs would increase as a result of the merger.

Mailbag

Salt River Project has appointed Capitol Hill veteran Renee Eastman manager of federal affairs. Eastman previously served four years as a representative for Sun Company, the nation's largest independent oil refiner and marketer.

Peter M. Schwolsky, former executive v.p. at New Jersey Resources Corp., has joined Columbia Gas System as senior v.p. He will become chief legal officer of the corporation later this year.

Financial News

Charles M. Studness

The California Public Utilities

Commission (CPUC) moved a tortured step closer to deciding how it will reform its regulation of the

state's electric utilities when it

adopted a Proposed Policy Decision in its proceeding on competition by a 3-to-1 vote on May 24. The Proposed Decision retreats from the free-market approach the CPUC took when it presented its "Blue Book" proposal in April 1994.

Massachusetts Calls for Retail, Wholesale Competition

Lori A. Burkhart

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci have filed a proposal with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that would require all Massachusetts electric utilities to develop deregulation plans by the end of 1995.

In the proposal, the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources (DOER) asks the DPU to issue a June 16 restructuring timetable that schedules a final order around August 1.

Penn. Fights for Gas Incentive Regulation

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has reaffirmed earlier rulings establishing performance-based rate mechanisms for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., citing its authority to implement modified versions of a capacity-release sharing mechanism and an incentive mechanism for purchased gas costs.

Coal Hauling Contract Leads to Virginia Power Refund

Lori A. Burkhart

The Virginia Corporation Commission has approved an $8.3-million repayment by Virginia Power (VP) for excessive fuel costs resulting from a 1991 coal-hauling contract with CSX Transportation Inc. The contract became the focus of attention during a dispute last year between the utility and its corporate parent, Dominion Resources, Inc. (DRI).

Commission staff found in a January report that DRI chairman and CEO Thomas E. Capps had pressured VP into the contract, which was expected to benefit the company.

Performance-based Ratemaking

Phillip S. Cross

Performance-based ratemaking (PBR) departs from the cost-of-service standard in setting just and reasonable utility rates, but that departure isn't as easy as it looks.

Up until now, cost-of-service ratemaking has provided relatively stable rates, while enabling utilities to attract enormous amounts of capital. Of late, however, regulators appear to be heeding the argument that changing markets warrant a second look.

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