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Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1996

Calif. Restructuring Impairs Muni Credit Ratings

Lori A. Burkhart

Moody's Investors Service has completed its Western Grid Surveillance Review, a study that assessed the potential impact of the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC's) electric restructuring proposal on municipal utilities in that region.

PL94-4: Pricing for New Pipeline Construction

Jeffrey S. Hitchings

On May 31, 1995, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its Statement of Policy in Docket No. PL94-4-000, Pricing Policy for New and Existing Facilities Constructed by Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines.1 In that decision, the FERC sought to provide upfront rate certainty, thereby giving pipelines and shippers a firm basis for making decisions on large-scale investments.

But is that objective realistic?

Restructuring Moves Forward in Massachusetts

Lori A. Burkhart

The Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources (DOER) has filed its electric restructuring proposal, "Power Choice," as part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities investigation into competition. The proposal will be considered along with restructuring plans submitted by the state's three largest utilities.

Power Choice calls for electric utilities to voluntarily separate into generation and distribution companies. Customers would continue to receive distribution service through their present providers; generation would become competitive.

Reliability, Not Economy, Dictates Transmission Line

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a proposal by Sierra Pacific Power Co. to construct a 345-kilovolt overhead transmission line, but not simply to gain access to low-cost power. Instead, the CPUC appeared to emphasize concern over reliability.

Sierra Pacific, involved in merger plans with The Washington Water Power Co., had cited access to low-cost power from the Bonneville Power Administration as an important reason to build the transmission line.

WP&L Withdraws From MAIN

Lori A. Burkhart

Wisconsin Power & Light Co. (WP&L) has announced that it will withdraw from its current regional reliability council, Mid-America Interconnected Network, Inc. (MAIN), effective December 31, 1997. According to president and chief executive officer of WPL Holdings Errol B.

Price-cap Reforms Reflect Local Competition

Phillip S. Cross

Citing heightened competition and lower earnings in the state's local exchange telephone market, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has frozen price caps for local exchange carriers (LECs) for most noncompetitive local services, and has suspended the 5-percent "x-factor" services for an intermediate level of competition.

ComEd Saves Taxes on Byron Plant

Lori A. Burkhart

The Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board has decided to cut taxes for Commonwealth Edison Co.'s (ComEd) Byron nuclear power plant. ComEd currently pays about $40 million in real estate taxes on the plant to Ogle County; the decision would lower the payments to $13.3 million. Ogle County will most likely appeal the decision, because certain local tax districts had planned on the revenue, and some have already spent the funds.

LECs in Oregon to See Competition

Phillip S. Cross

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has authorized three new telecommunications companies to provide local exchange service in competition with existing carriers U S WEST Communications, Inc. and GTE Northwest, Inc.

Raytheon Benefits From "Secret" Contract

Lori A. Burkhart

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved a discount electric rate contract for defense contractor Raytheon Co., a customer of Massachusetts Electric Co. (ME). But the secrecy surrounding the contract has created an uproar.

Although the terms of the contract are confidential, Raytheon said the three-year contract would yield "significant savings" on its $20-million annual electric bill. ME called the discount an "economic development" contract, which would keep Raytheon and its 17,500 employees from leaving the state.

PSC Scales Back Residential Subsidy

Phillip S. Cross

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has directed Consumers Power Co. to scale back any residential rate subsidies. The order appeared during a review of a proposed settlement in a series of applications to increase rates, revise depreciation methods, and offer discounts to industrial customers.

The PSC added, however, that the company should not try to eliminate the entire subsidy in a single step.

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