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Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1997

FERC Delays Four-Way Combo

Phillip S. Cross

U.S. District Court in New Hampshire has denied a move by customers and ratepayer groups to intervene in litigation on electric restructuring simply on the basis that they wanted lower rates.

The court said that a general desire to pay lower rates was not specific enough to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by several large electric utilities to challenge elements of the plan for competition approved in February by the state Public Utilities Commission. See, Re Restructuring New Hampshire's Electric Utility Industry, Order No. 22,514, 175 PUR4th 193 (N.H.P.U.C.).

Job Protection Measures

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Key points from approved and pending legislation

California:

A.B. 1890, signed into law Sept. 23, 1996.

• Plant Divestiture. To ensure the safe, reliable operation when utilities sell off generating facilities, buyers or successor corporations must keep the current staff on board for at least two years.

• Stranded Cost Recovery. Statute recognizes explicitly that transition to customer choice can produce employee hardships.

FERC Approves Two Convergence Combos

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the merger of Brooklyn Union Gas Co. and neighboring Long Island Lighting Co., although concerns emerged about potential vertical market power. A new holding company, temporarily called HoldCo, will run the merged corporation.

At the same July 16 meeting, FERC indirectly sanctioned the merger of Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. with PG&E Corp., the holding company (created Jan. 1, 1997) for California-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

LILCO + Brooklyn Union.

News of Coal's Demise Could Prove Premature

Kent Knutson

Despite recent announcements by the Environmental Protection Agency to place additional restraints on power plant emissions, coal continues to dominate electric fuels markets. Though some fear new EPA standards could pressure marginal coal plants to close, it is unlikely this will happen. Coal markets are propped up by a marked decrease in contract prices, cleaner mining, productivity gains, troubled nuclear power and instability in gas and oil prices.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Build vs. Buy. Finding the "build" option as the cheapest alternative when two purchased power contracts expired, Florida PSC allows Tallahassee municipal electric utility to construct a 250-megawatt, combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power plant at an existing generation site. Docket No. 961512-EM, Order No. PSC-97-0659-FOF-EM, June 9, 1997 (Fla.P.S.C.).

Special Contract Discounts. New Jersey allows Elizabethtown Gas Co.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

My electric company, Potomac Electric Power Co., has announced a joint venture with RCN Corp. of Princeton, N.J., to offer local and long-distance telephone service to callers in Washington, D.C., and nearby areas, plus cable television and high-speed connections to the Internet. With stockholder money, PEPCO would compete head-on against Bell Atlantic, which won approval from the Federal Communications Commission on Aug. 14 for its $25-billion merger with NYNEX.

Reporting the story, The Washington Post quoted PEPCO President John M.

N.H. Ratepayers Lose in Bid to Support Electric Plan

Phillip S. Cross

U.S. District Court in New Hampshire has denied a move by customers and ratepayer groups to intervene in litigation on electric restructuring simply on the basis that they wanted lower rates.

The court said that a general desire to pay lower rates was not specific enough to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by several large electric utilities to challenge elements of the plan for competition approved in February by the state Public Utilities Commission. See, Re Restructuring New Hampshire's Electric Utility Industry, Order No. 22,514, 175 PUR4th 193 (N.H.P.U.C.).

People

Robert L. Digan II was hired by Semco Energy as its senior v.p. and CFO. Digan joins SEMCO from Supershuttle International.

United Cities Gas Co. has promoted Ann S. Baldwin from purchasing assistant manager to purchasing manager.

Scott B. Foster has left the International Energy Agency in Paris to join Cambridge Energy Research Associates. CERA also hired Gary Hunt, former COO at East Bay Municipal Utilities. He will serve as the company's North American electric power project director. Hunt will advise clients on responses to changes in the electric power business.

N.J. Extends Economic Development Programs

Phillip S. Cross

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has authorized Public Service Electric and Gas Co. to extend its existing economic development programs through July 1999.

The programs include construction and building credits for non-residential consumers who expand into newly leased or purchased vacant building space and increase their electric or gas energy use as a result. The program also includes an electric, off-peak employment service for non-residential customers that increase consumption of off-peak electricity as a result of increased employment levels.

Joules

Follow the arrows as California's direct access workshops map out who will have access to electric customer data.

In its latest order implementing direct access for electric customers, the California Public Utilities Commission told Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to conduct workshops to recommend rules on the release of customer information in a deregulated electric industry.

The PUC offered guidelines.

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