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Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1996

Mailbag

In a recent article ("The Efficient Utility: Labor, Capital, and Profit," Sept. 1, 1995), Taylor and Thompson attempt to measure the

economic efficiencies of 19 investor-owned utilities.

The authors use a method of efficiency measurement proposed by M.J. Farrell in a pioneering paper published nearly 40 years ago.

Electric M&A: A Regulators Guide

David E. and Kimberly H. Dismukes

In a little over a year, the electric utility industry has seen six significant mergers.1 This trend toward consolidation most likely will increase as the industry becomes more competitive.

Nymex Moves on Options Contracts

Lori A. Burkhart

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) has asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to approve two applications for electricity options contracts, one based on each of the futures contracts already under consideration by the CFTC. (This past summer, NYMEX applied to offer trading in two electricity futures contracts, one for delivery at the California-Oregon border, and the other for delivery at the Palo Verde switchyard in Arizona.)

Except for delivery location, the terms of the two contracts are identical.

Market Structure Dominates State Proceedings

Phillip S. Cross

Investigations of changes in the structure of the electric utility industry are growing at the state level.

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.

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