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Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

Preserving Local Telephone Service in High-cost Areas

John N. Rose

Legislators and regulators must recognize that rural America is different.

The costs of providing telephone service to rural America are much higher than for more urban areas of the country. By definition, small rural subscribers are scattered throughout large geographic areas. In rural areas, the average number of subscribers per route mile runs about 6.3; the average number of subscribers per square mile is 4.4.

DOD Electric Procurement Causes Industry Schism

Lori A. Burkhart

A U.S. House-Senate conference committee may remove a provision in present law that requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to buy electricity solely from its local distribution company. The House of Representatives has already voted DOD (300 to 126) the right to buy electricity from the most economical source. A first step toward allowing retail wheeling for military bases, the provision is part of the House fiscal year 1996 Defense Authorization bill.

Penn. Regulators Upheld on Nuclear Decommissioning Costs

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) ruling permitting Metropolitan Edison Co. to charge current ratepayers approximately $8.3 million a year for a portion of the cost of decommissioning the disabled Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI 2) nuclear generating plant. A lower court found the cost recovery improper because the plant was not and would not be "used and useful" in providing service to customers (see Irwin A. Popowsky v. Penn. PUC, 642 A.2d 648, 153 PUR4th 244 (Pa.Commw.Ct.

Regulation or Technology? Low-Income Electric Customers and the Transition to Competition

Philip R. O'Connor, Erik B. Jacobson, and Terrence L. Barnich

Twenty-five centuries ago, 300 steadfast Spartans, defending their sacred Greek turf, held up Xerxes's Persian army at the pass at Thermopylae just long enough for the Persians to lose the opportunity to conquer Greece. The world would have been quite different if the Spartans had just "given way."Contemporary state public utility regulators number just about that of those plucky Spartans.

SNG Gets Transition Cost Refund

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a comprehensive settlement for Southern Natural Gas Co. (SNG), resolving the company's costs associated with its transition to Order 636. The settlement resolves

23 rate cases, reduces rates, and provides about

$146 million in customer refunds (Docket No. RP89-224-000, et al.). Protesting parties have been severed from the case.

The refunds, plus $9.1 million contributed by SNG, will serve as a credit toward customers' liability for SNG's cost of realigning gas supplies under Order 636.

Missouri Finds Affiliate Study Contract Imprudent

Phillip S. Cross

Concluding an investigation of supply-cost recovery for the Associated Natural Gas Co., a natural gas distribution company (LDC), the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) has found imprudent the LDC's long-term supply contract with an affiliated supplier, SEECO, Inc. The PSC excluded from adjustment clause recovery one-half the premium paid above spot-market prices under the contract for firm fixed-price swing-gas supply. The PSC said the LDC failed to properly evaluate other gas suppliers prior to entering into the contract or to document its gas purchasing practices.

Charting Regulation in '95: Put on Your Lifejackets!

Bob Anderson

State and federal regulators and the industries we regulate have donned life jackets. It's as if we are boating down the unexplored Grand Canyon with John Wesley Powell1 in 1869. We share a vague vision of what lies at the mouth of the canyon, but the rapids are treacherous and uncharted.

On the river, boatmen and women often scout the tough rapids from the shore. Back on the river, they carefully set themselves up at the proper position and angle, then apply deft, sometimes powerful, strokes at crucial moments.

FERC Rejects NEPOOL Tariffs

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rejected a proposed amendment to the NEPOOL agreement that would have 1) facilitated negotiation of energy-only transactions by and among pool members, and 2) eliminated an otherwise applicable rate discount for transmitting energy involved in certain of those sales (Docket No. ER95-1466-000).A key aspect of NEPOOL operations is sharing of reserves. Each member is assigned a capacity responsibility equal to its load plus a share of the pool's combined reserve requirement.

PUCs at 2000 - Question OneState Commissioners

Question: Will your commission still be around in the year 2000? If so, what will it look like? Are you restructuring your commission with the same fervor you devote to electricity, gas, and telecommunications?Response by Nancy McCaffree, Chair, Montana Public Service Commission:

As a regulator I have had the opportunity to listen to economists, energy planners, and other professional soothsayers. I have come to the conclusion that the only certainty pertaining to future forecasts is that they will be wrong 100 percent of the time.

Open-access Filings Climbing

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has accepted seven more open-access electric transmission tariffs, bringing the total to 34. Another six are pending. The new tariffs were submitted by Jersey Central Power & Light Co.,

Mid-American Energy Co., Illinois Power Co., Wisconsin Power & Light Co., Western Resources, Inc., IES Utilities, and Commonwealth Electric Co.

"We consider this a success story," said FERC chair Elizabeth A. Moler. "While we still have a long way to go, this is real progress.

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