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Fortnightly Magazine - August 1996

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

It's August again. In Washington. Anyone with any sense is looking to get out of town and hole up at the beach. Anyone, that is, except a magazine editor.

When I wrote this column on July 11, Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-CO) had just concluded a news conference to announce his "Electric Consumers' Power to Choose Act of 1996." Reams of testimony were pouring in, demanding to be read. Faxes arrived nonstop all afternoon with offers from experts to provide comments, quotes, or some unique spin on the day's events.

Gas Transport Order Looks at Balancing Services

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has issued final regulations to guide the restructuring of intrastate transportation services offered by natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs) in the state. The PUC issued the new rules as a "tentative order" to allow additional comments from interested parties because of ongoing changes in the gas industry, and because over two years had passed since it issued proposed rules.

People

William A. Fox was named president of The Peoples Natural Gas Co. and Hope Gas, Inc. (em both subsidiaries of Consolidated Natural Gas Co. Fox comes from Virginia Natural Gas, another subsidiary. Succeeding him is Jerry L. Causey, VNG's operations v.p. Francis J. Corbett, formerly g.m. of VNG's northern division office, steps into Causey's post. Jose M. Simon was made controller at the corporate office. Joseph R.

Ohio Strikes Down Electric Resale Prohibitions

Phillip S. Cross

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has struck down a prohibition against resale of electric service imposed by Toledo Edison Co. on owners and operators of commercial property. The PUC said that the case and other similar actions had begun as civil actions by landlords to collect back rent where disputes arose over the energy portion of monthly payments by tenants.

Joules

The United States Telephone Association has called for more voluntary interconnection agreements between telecom companies, claiming that the resulting competition will bring consumers more choices. USTA cited more than 50 signed agreements with companies that want to connect to the local network, and nearly 500 ongoing negotiations.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the Gas Research Institute's request for a 20-percent cut in its 1996 research, development, and commercialization budget.

Gas Unbundling: Benefits "Uncertain" for Small Customers

Phillip S. Cross

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has adopted a set of policy guidelines to restructure and promote competition in local gas markets. The PSC said that a major problem is determining how smaller core customers can benefit: "Reliance on competitive market forces is preferable to regulation," but only when competition is effective and sustainable. To test for competition, the PSC will monitor: 1) the ability of providers to make functionally equivalent service readily available, and 2) the numbers and market strength of competitive providers.

Keneteck Windpower Files Chapter 11

Lori A. Burkhart

Kenetech Windpower (KW), a subsidiary of Kenetech Corp., on May 29 filed a voluntary petition of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Parent corporation Kenetech does not intend to seek bankruptcy relief, nor cause any of its subsidiaries not directly engaged in the windpower business to seek such relief.

States Promote Local Telephone Competition

Phillip S. Cross

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) has set rates and terms for unbundled interconnection services that U S WEST Communications, Inc., a local exchange carrier (LEC), must provide to other carriers seeking to provide competitive local service. The IUB ruled that U S WEST must use the Total Service Long Run Incremental Cost method to set prices for the use of its facilities. It also ruled that the LEC may include "an appropriate markup" in the rates as well as a contribution to shared and common costs of the local loop.

Puget Power's Plans Depend on Merger

Lori A. Burkhart

Puget Sound Power & Light Co. (PSPL) has asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to approve a plan that would allow large customers to access electricity at market cost, and all customers to choose their electric suppliers within five years. The proposal is contingent upon approval of PSPL's proposed merger with Washington Energy Co.

Indiana on Water Utility Mergers

Phillip S. Cross

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (URC) has adopted a new ratemaking policy for mergers involving water utilities: The URC will first look at the fair value of the acquired utility, as determined in its most recent rate case, to determine the reasonableness of the purchase price.

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