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Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1996

Niagara Mohawk Refuses "Adequate assurances"

Lori A. Burkhart

U.S. District Court Judge John E. Sprizzo has ruled that Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NiMo) has no right to demand "adequate assurances" from independent power producers (IPPs) that unsecured tracking account balances will be repaid. The decision stems from a series of lawsuits filed by IPPs in response to a February 1994 letter from NiMo threatening contract repudiation unless the assurances were given (Ecogen Four Partners v.

Plan Will Substitute for Gas Capacity Release

Phillip S. Cross

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has authorized Elizabethtown Gas Co., to change its seasonal delivery service tariff to allow third-party suppliers to bid on incremental pipeline capacity for a limited time. (Unlike other gas distributors [LDCs], Elizabethtown could not take advantage of capacity-release programs approved by the board.) The company will allocate up to 2.5 billion cubic feet of capacity for the new offering and will not contract for additional capacity to operate the program.

Former Workers Allege Age Discrimination

Lori A. Burkhart

Seventeen former Florida Power Corp. (FPC) employees have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Ocala against the utility, alleging age discrimination. Plaintiffs claim that most of the workers who lost jobs in restructuring layoffs are over 40, and were targeted because of high salaries or costly illnesses. If certified as a class-action lawsuit, plaintiffs say as many as 1,000 workers laid off since 1993 may join them. FPC disputes that estimate, claiming that the ages of the laid-off workers ranged from the 20's to the 60's. (em LB t

Lori A.

Multiyear Rate Agreements to Continue

Phillip S. Cross

Noting controversy surrounding multi-year incentive agreements in utility rate cases, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved guidelines for filing multiyear rate proposals and requests to depart from approved rate plans. The guidelines deemphasize the importance of "global" settlements in such cases, and reaffirm the rights of nonsettling parties to litigate issues raised by incentive and multiyear rate proposals. The PSC acknowledged the worth of multi-year settlements, but declined to rely exclusively on such agreements.

Perspective

Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr.

The 129 federally owned plants that make up the five PMAs generate about 6 percent of the electricity sold in the United States.1 By law, the PMAs sell wholesale power at cost to legally stipulated "preference customers" (em i.e., municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives.

N.Y. Eyes Strategy for Number Portability

Phillip S. Cross

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has endorsed location routing number (LRN) technology as the most viable long-term solution to telephone number portability, although it does not expect LRN to become generally available for installation on most major central-office switching equipment until the second quarter of 1997.

The PSC noted that LRN minimizes the impact on network architecture by preserving existing routing logic and hierarchy, thus minimizing switch modifications and changes to databases and operating systems.

Outsourcing Fleet Management: Boon or Bust?

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

To an outsourcing company, offering services to utilities to manage their motor vehicle fleets may seem like a simple economic proposition. "We can do it better and cheaper," the outsourcers say.

But it's not that easy. Thorny issues arise (em in economics, quality, administration, and labor relations. And they must be faced head on.

Few utilities today have avoided outsourcing one function or another in the effort to cut costs. Some utilities have been burned.

Transportation Banking Refined by LDC

Phillip S. Cross

The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized Mountaineer Gas Co. to set up a method to compensate interruptible transportation customers for "banked" over-deliveries eventually used by other sales customers. The company historically permitted its transportation customers to bank excess volumes, and used the gas to reduce purchases for sales customers.

Under the new method, the company will buy current and future banked supplies at a "market determined" rate.

Leave it to the Experts

Peter Pequignot

As utilities refocus resources on their core business, they are developing strategic partners to manage day-to-day support services more efficiently. Operational functions that received scant notice in the past are now identified as areas for big savings.

Transportation services mark one such area. Activities like vehicle acquisition, resale, maintenance, fueling, and routine administration are now widely viewed as outsourcing opportunities (em to reduce costs and enhance productivity.

Appeals Court Holds FP&L Immune From QF Antitrust Complaints

Phillip S. Cross

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that Florida Power and Light Co. (FP&L) is protected by the state action immunity doctrine from liability to cogenerators (QFs) for alleged antitrust violations. The QFs had claimed that FP&L violated federal antitrust laws when it refused to wheel their power to offsite end users.

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