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Fortnightly Magazine - August 1997

Climate Change at the Stack: Posturing Toward Kyoto

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

U.S., rest of the world ponder CO2 emissions, with utilities caught in the middle.

Four months from now, in Kyoto, Japan, international policy negotiators will decide how quickly to curtail carbon dioxide emissions and allay the world's fears of melting ice caps and rising temperatures.

The amendments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or FCCC, are likely to be founded more on world and domestic politics than on science. Industry climatologists, after all, insist the atmosphere is not warming as fast as others predict, and could be, in fact, cooling.

Murkowski's Senate Panel Hears Consumers Groups

Lori M. Rodgers

Pocketbook issues, like all others, tend to split along political lines.

Meeting on June 12, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee focused for the first time on what customers really think about choosing their own energy vendor.

Nevertheless, despite the shift toward pocketbook issues, and away from so-called "inside-the-Beltway" concerns, the testimony came largely from organized consumer groups, and it appeared split down political lines: urban vs. rural, private vs. public, business vs. residential.

OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA

Does cleaner air mean lighter pockets?

The Ozone Transport Advisory Group has recommended that the EPA should let states adopt a range of emissions levels to help meet ozone standards, which could tap into utilities' profits. The proposal comes two years after OTAG was formed to study region-to-region airborne movements of smog, a byproduct of ozone.

Coal-fired power plants and vehicle exhaust are the biggest contributors to ozone, due to emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Central & SouthWest Power Marketer Gets OK

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 11 approved the request of CSW Power Marketing Inc. to sell energy at market-based rates due to lack of market dominance.

The FERC in May 1996 had denied an application by CSW, an affiliate of Central and South West Corp., to sell power at market-based rates (Docket Nos. ER97-1238-000 and ER96-1348-001). The approval was based on lack of a comparable, open-access transmission tariff on the systems of CSW's public utility affiliates.

Carbon Sequestration: Robin Hoods of the Forest?

Elizabeth Striano

Appearing as tree huggers, utilities draw skeptical reaction from environmentalists.

At first glance, it looks like the same old story: Environmentalists versus utilities. But this time, the utilities are the ones fighting for the forests (em with a twist.

Utilities, major producers of carbon dioxide, believe they've found a cost-effective way to offset emissions through carbon sequestration, or sinks, which means converting pastures to forests or maintaining old-growth groves.

But environmentalists call it an easy way out.

Groups Call Phase-II Filing "Frankenstein"

Lori A. Burkhart

Two California watchdog groups, The Utility Reform Network and Utility Consumers Action Network, have filed a joint protest at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against the proposed structure of California's independent system operator and power exchange (Docket Nos. EC96-19-003 and ER96-1663-003).

The groups believe the proposed structures would hurt small consumers. They noted that although small consumers use about one-third of the state's electricity, they only have two votes out of 26 in both the PX and the ISO.

Looking Back on SO2 Trading: What's Good for the Environment Is Good for the Market

Joseph Kruger, and Melanie Dean

The overwhelming impression is one of growth (em in volume and in the number of participants.

The early 1990s was an anxious period for advocates of emissions trading. Concerns about whether the sulfur dioxide allowance market would ever develop tempered the heady success of the first national emissions trading program implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Title IV. These concerns were heightened when in May 1992, Wisconsin Power & Light traded 10,000 allowances to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

FERC Praises "Pony Express"

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a request by KN Energy Inc. to convert its 900-mile Pony Express Pipeline from oil to natural gas (Docket No. CP96-477-000). The pipeline was expected to begin operating in August, carrying natural gas from several points in the Rocky Mountains to Kansas City.

Through a separate regulatory authority, subsidiary KN Interstate will construct a 36-mile Riverside lateral to the Kansas City market. The FERC approved rolled-in rate treatment for the pipeline.

The project garnered praise from the FERC.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

The PJM Interconnection is what they call a "tight" power pool. As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has explained, tight power pools "extensively coordinate" their planning and operations, with central dispatch of generating plants. This coordination builds reliability--one of the long-term benefits, says the FERC, of a tight power pool.

Coordination also builds market power, however. And, as we all know from FERC Order 888, market power in transmission stands as "the single greatest impediment" to electricity competition.

PJM Restructuring Battle Continues

Lori A. Burkhart

Nine members of the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Power Pool filed a revised plan at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish an independent system operator for the Mid-Atlantic power market.

The utilities have been battling with lone dissenter PECO Energy over the details of the ISO.

The nine utilities, dubbed the "supporting companies," agree on the form that an ISO should take. In November 1996, the FERC had rejected ISO proposals by both parties as having failed to comply with Order 888.

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