The Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has proposed regulations to allow electric utilities to use fuel-cost clauses to recover gains or losses from trading Clean Air Act emission allowances....
Consumer Group Asks SEC To Stop Southern Co.'s Asia Move
A Georgia-based consumer advocacy group, the Campaign for a Prosperous Georgia (CPG), has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to halt a move by The Southern Company to use up to 100 percent of its retained earnings for a $2.75 billion acquisition of 80 percent of the Asian utility company, Consolidated Electric Power of Asia.
Among other claims, CPG wants the SEC to reconsider an April 1996 decision that granted an exemption to The Southern Company from the provisions of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA).
Worries in Congress. According to CPG, that exemption has raised concerns with some members of Congress and state utility commissions. In particular, CPG says that U.S. Representatives Edward Markey and John Dingell (principal authors of PUHCA amendments passed in 1992 to mandate certain
consumer protections) have suggested in a series of letters to addressed to SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt that the exemption granted Southern does not fulfill the law.
Concerns in Georgia. Also, the Georgia PSC reportedly has expressed concern to the SEC that the proposed takeover could hurt domestic customers by raising the cost of Southern's capital.
CPG alleges that the SEC exemption violates the law, but suggests that the SEC could ensure compliance with consumer and investor protections by imposing conditions on the exemption. Such protections would include commitments by Southern to lower wholesale and retail utility rates, prohibitions on stranded-cost claims, mechanisms to ensure full competition in Southern's retail service area, or a set-aside of funds to ensure environmental compliance and nuclear safety.
CPG has asked the SEC to reconsider the granting of the exemption, and on December 10 asked the SEC to stay the exemption pending resolution of the dispute. CPG also has appealed the decision of the SEC to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
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