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Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

Duff & Phelps Applauds Mass. Atty. General's Plan

Lori A. Burkhart

The Massachusetts Attorney General and the New England Electric System (NEES) have unveiled a plan to restructure electric utilities in Massachusetts (em "Consumers First."

The plan would allow all residential and business customers of investor-owned utilities to choose their electric supplier on January 1, 1998, and mandates that all customers receive a minimum 10-percent reduction on monthly bills. Existing purchased-power contracts would be honored, and approved utility investments recovered, subject to independent market valuations.

Electric Utility Expands Market-based Rate Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Oregon Public Utility Commission has authorized Portland General Electric Co. to expand market-based (discounted) pricing options for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, by lowering the minimum load threshold from 10 to 5 megawatts.

Pricing under the new tariff is based on either 1) an annual fixed-price quote set at the beginning of the contract year and reflecting the market price of power delivery to the utility's service territory; or 2) the daily nonfirm price at the California-Oregon Border, plus 1 mill per kilowatt-hour.

NY IOUSs Sue PSC Over Restructuring Decision

Lori A. Burkhart

Investor-owned utility (IOU) members of the Energy Association of New York have joined in a lawsuit against the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) and its May 16 Competitive Opportunities decision, which called for a wholesale competitive market in 1997 and introduction of retail access in 1998.

The IOUs claim the lawsuit does not challenge the introduction of competition to New York's electric utility industry, but targets the "vague language" and incomplete guidelines.

California Maintains Limits on RTP Pilot

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has denied a request by a large noncore gas user for a waiver from eligibility limits imposed under a real-time pricing (RTP) experiment for gas transportation service approved by the CPUC in 1994 for San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E).

In an earlier ruling, the CPUC had restricted eligibility for the RTP experiment to a maximum of 10 customers per year, and had excluded electric generation and cogeneration customers from eligibility.

Las Cruces Stymied in El Paso Takeover

Lori A. Burkhart

The U.S. District Court for New Mexico has ruled that the City of Las Cruces, NM, failed to meet the burden of proof required to take over through condemnation the electric facilities owned by El Paso Electric Co. (EPE) [City of Las Cruces v. El Paso Electric Co., No.

Arizona Extends Plan to Share LDC Pipeline Capcity

Phillip S. Cross

The Arizona Corporation Commission has extended its interim approval of the "Interstate Pipeline Capacity Sharing Program" implemented by Southwest Gas Corp.

The plan allows the gas utility to buy gas on the spot market from areas outside the area served by its traditional pipeline supplier, El Paso Natural Gas Co., and then transport the gas using pipeline capacity held by El Paso's other operating divisions in Nevada and California. The utility then credits the contributing pipeline division with one-half of the commodity-cost savings as compensation.

California Bill Evokes Opposing Responses

Lori A. Burkhart

Moody's Investors Service has confirmed the debt ratings of California's three largest IOUs (em Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PGE: Sr. Secured A2), San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E: Sr. Secured A1), and Southern California Edison Co. (SCE: Sr. Secured A2) (em following passage of AB 1890, the California legislature's restructuring bill.

Moody's says that legislative endorsement of stranded-cost recovery is a favorable development for utility creditors, but notes that ultimate recovery depends on regulatory approval.

LDC Sales Customers Win Allocation Dispute

Phillip S. Cross

After reviewing an application by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., a local distribution company (LDC), to increase its purchased-gas cost rate, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has ordered the LDC to credit its sales customers with revenues collected from the transportation class as penalties for exceeding the current 10-percent limit on delivery imbalances. The PUC explained that costs for storage capacity due to overdeliveries by transportation users should be paid for by the class of customers responsible for such costs.

Senate Panel Gets Tutorial From New England on Electric CompetitionJoseph F. Schuler Jr.

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Utility witnesses want it both ways:

Stranded-cost recovery plus incentives for renewable energy.A New England utility executive told a U.S.

Federal Drinking Water Act Seen Favorable to IOUs

Lori A. Burkhart

According to Standard & Poor's (S&P), the recently reauthorized federal Safe Drinking Water Act should have a favorable, long-term credit impact on investor-owned water utilities.

The new act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to give states the flexibility to modify testing and monitoring requirements based on a local water system's actual health-risk exposure. The act will also form a state revolving fund program, which will assist small water systems in complying with regulations and in conducting other drinking water projects.

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