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Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1996

Moody's Finds Regulatory Change Slow

Lori A. Burkhart

In its annual report on the U.S. electric industry, Moody's Investors Service has concluded that the average credit rating for the industry will deteriorate from its present 'A3' level to 'Baa1' over the next two to three years.

Idaho Project Sale of Local Exchanges

Phillip S. Cross

Diverging from the position taken by regulators in other states in the region, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has rejected proposals by U S WEST Communications, Inc., a

telephone local exchange carrier, to sell certain local

exchanges to independent telephone companies. It approved, however, a proposal to sell one of U S WEST's exchanges to a telephone cooperative association. Re U S WEST Communications Inc., Case Nos. PRJ-T-94-1; USW-S-94-4, Order No. 26198, Oct. 18, 1995 (Idaho P.U.C.).

NYSEG Proposes Price-cap Plan

Lori A. Burkhart

New York State Electric & Gas Corp (NYSEG) and related parties have agreed to a settlement that would freeze natural gas prices for nearly three years, from December 1, 1995, until July 31, 1998. NYSEG would eliminate the gas adjustment and weather normalization clauses, and establish a service-quality incentive, setting earnings, rewards, or penalties based on performance.

N.Y. High Court Affirms Royalty Revenue Adjustments

Phillip S. Cross

The New York Court of Appeals, affirming a lower court ruling (Rochester Telephone Corp. et al. v. New York Public Service Commission, 201 A.D.2d 31, 155 PUR4th 511 (N.Y.App.Div.)), has upheld the authority of state regulators to use a "royalty" to reduce rates for services provided by local exchange carriers (LECs). The royalty was designed by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to compensate ratepayers for transfers of

intangible assets to unregulated subsidiaries.

Wisconsin Releases Restructuring EIS

Lori A. Burkhart

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has drafted a 425-page (plus appendices) environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of its investigation into restructuring (Docket No. 05-EI-114). The EIS examines a number of different proposed models. The "status quo" model would maintain the present regulatory structure, but the PSC admitted that the present rate case structure is time-consuming and does not respond quickly to changed circumstances.

The "plausible extreme" model proposes a single transmission system owner.

Cost Shift to Residential Gas Users Uphold

Phillip S. Cross

The Arkansas Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by state regulators permitting Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co., a natural gas local distribution company, to allocate the total amount of a recent rate increase to residential users. According to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC), applying the entire $4.9-million increase to residential users was an appropriate means of preventing system bypass by larger customers, consistent with prior efforts at removing interclass subsidies. (See, Re Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co., a division of Arkla, Inc., 150 PUR4th 333 (Ark.P.S.C.

N.Y. PSC Calls for Speed

Lori A. Burkhart

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has proposed accelerated restructuring of the electric industry in Phase II of its "competitive opportunities" proceeding (Case No. 94-E-0952). The proposal calls for wholesale competition by 1997, retail competition by 1998, separating generation from transmission and distribution, and forcing utilities to absorb a portion of their stranded investment.

Moody's Investors Service believes the proposal has generally negative credit implications for New York's investor-owned utilities.

VA High Court Upholds LEC Price-cap Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the state's decision to implement a price-cap

alternative regulation plan for Bell Atlantic-Virginia, Inc., a telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC). Rejecting an appeal brought by the American Association of Retired Persons and other consumer groups, the court concluded that the Virginia State Corporation Commission had adequate support for its decision to replace existing ratemaking methods.

Merger in the Midwest

Lori A. Burkhart

Puget Sound Power & Light Co. (PSPL) and Washington Energy Co. (WE) have agreed to merge, projecting $370 million in savings over the next 10 years from elimination of duplicate corporate and administrative programs, and integration of field operations and facilities. About 45 percent of the savings would come from an 8-percent reduction in combined workforces.

Illinois Court Rejects Electric Anti-bypass Rates

Phillip S. Cross

An Illinois Appellate Court has reversed a ruling by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that had allowed Commonwealth Edison Co. to enter negotiated rate contracts with up to 25 large general-service customers to retain existing load. The ICC had ruled that the antibypass tariff would not conflict with state laws requiring filing and publication of utility rates, because it must contain a description of the pricing and service parameters used in negotiating the individual contracts.

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