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Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1996

NARUC Turns Gaze Inward

After a year and two task forces, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) could soon have a new structure.

"With all these industry changes, we need to look internally, as commissions are also being asked to change, to see what changes will compliment what's happening out there in the industry," says John Gawronski, NARUC spokesman.

Nader Group's Restructuring Plan Puts Consumers First

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

The belief that competition will take over for regulation is a "fairy tale approach" to

electric industry restructuring.

That's what Matthew Freedman, energy policy analyst, announced at a Public Citizen briefing on the advocacy group's Power for the People, a "public interest blueprint" for the new electric market.

"Competition in the electric power industry could either usher in a new era of cleaner, more affordable energy services or prove to be the biggest customer shakedown of our time," the report reads.

PUC Overhaul: Sacrificing Consumer Services?

As state public utility commissions (PUCs) undergo restructuring, consumer advocate services also face possible cutbacks.

California PUC:

In California, the CPUC's Vision 2000 plan would affect various independent departments, such as the Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), Office of Administrative Law, and Department of Policy. It would recast those agencies into eight divisions: customer services (consumer complaints), human resources, information services, energy, telecommunications, rail safety, carriers, and water.

Weinberger, Utilities Give Qualified Support to Renewables

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger told a gathering of utility and renewable energy executives that he supports conservation efforts to reduce the risk of another major oil crisis, but that the government's role in renewables should be limited.

"I think you're not going to get more energy efficiency simply by spending more money," Weinberger said at the Seventh Annual Energy Efficiency Forum sponsored by the U.S. Energy Association and Johnson Controls in Washington, DC.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

That's how fast the money pours in to the nation's Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund, one mill at a time. And the money is attracting attention, especially during this election year, with Congress running out of time before its planned August recess.

"Today has been extremely rich in terms of rumors," said Mike McCarthy, administrator of the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, when I talked with him on June 28.

"The leadership in the House and Senate have met. People seem to be adjusting their schedules.

Foreign Waste Generates Heat

Lori A. Burkhart

The Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition (em a group of 36 state regulatory agencies, Attorneys General, and utilities from 20 states (em has renewed calls for storage and disposal facilities since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) accepted 20 metric tons of radioactive waste from 41 countries. The waste derives from nuclear fuel originally provided by the United States to foreign power plants. The bulk, 19 tons, goes to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina; the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory receives the remainder. U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab: about $1 billion.

People

Richard D. Spencer, lately of General Electric Corp., has been hired by Equitable Resources, Inc. as v.p. and chief information officer. He was technology programs manager at GE.

Commonwealth Edison Co. has formed a new nuclear division management team. Thomas J. Maiman, senior v.p., is the top executive. He moves from the company's fossil division. Michael J. Wallace, another senior v.p., will market the utility on strategic nuclear business issues.

Financial News

Charles M. Studness

Despite two years of debate, little progress has been made toward a solution to the issue of stranded costs. And since the two sides have almost no common ground, any accommodation seems unlikely. Utilities that seek stranded-cost recovery appear to have the upper hand at present, but the stiffest resistance still lies ahead. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order 888 clearly favors utilities, but customer reaction signals a shift to another venue.

Mailbag

David P. Larson

I was amused by your "Headlines" item on the Reason Foundation's study calling for privatization of TVA and the power marketing administrations due to government subsidization and poor management (May 15, 1996, p. 16). If those were the two overriding issues, one could argue in favor of swapping segments and doing something different with the segment that costs the government the most.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Economic Development Programs. Connecticut allows LDC to redirect margin-sharing funds from interruptible and transportation sales to support economic development and reduce residential hardship assistance balances. Caps annual program funding at $6 million. Rejects proposal that shareholder funds match ratepayer contributions. Docket No. 93-03-09 Reopening III, Apr. 25, 1996 (Conn.D.P.U.C.).

Demand-side Management.

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