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Courts & Commissions

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1997

1997, 178 PUR4th 469.

According to the union, the PUC had failed to meet legal requirements under the state public utility code and the state's recently enacted electric industry restructuring law, which require the commission to maintain customer service standards at "existing levels" under retail competition.

The union had argued that an electric utility cannot fulfill existing service obligations if it does not continue to own, maintain and read meters and issue the resulting bill for service. Re Guidelines for Maintaining Customer Services, Docket No. m-00960890 f 0011, Aug. 2, 1997 (Pa.P.U.C.).

PENNSYLVANIA ADOPTS ELECTRIC MARKETING RULES

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has adopted interim price disclosure requirements for electric utilities, competitive suppliers and aggregators or brokers who participate in the state's newly restructured electric market.

The rules will ensure that customers are provided with enough information to compare prices and services between competitive suppliers uniformly.

Under the rules, customer bills must show separate rate components including: generation, transmission, distribution and transition charges. In addition, the first page of a customer bill must also contain usage information, including twelve-month total usage figures and a monthly average. Suppliers must also give customers a comparison of existing monthly cost for basic services and any new pricing agreements it has offered.

To avoid problems with marketing "green" power alternatives, the commission adopted specific requirements to identify energy sources. It noted that suppliers who knowingly misrepresent environmental benefits would be subject to claims of fraud and breach of contract under state law. Re Electric Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act - Customer information - Interim requirements, Docket No. m-00960890f0008, July 11, 1997 (Pa.P.U.C.).

NEW JERSEY APPROVES GAS DISCOUNT RATE

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has allowed South Jersey Gas Co. to offer significant discounts to one of its large industrial customers that had threatened to leave the local gas system to lower its supply costs.

The utility said that the customer, Huntsman Polypropylene Corp., had considered bypassing the South Jersey system through a direct connection with Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., an interstate pipeline company. Huntsman also had considered closing its chemical manufacturing facilities in the area. Re South Jersey Gas Co., BPU Docket No. gt96090690, Aug. 27, 1997 (N.J.B.P.U.).

TELCO FAILS FCC CHECKLIST FOR COMPETITION

The Illinois Commerce Commission has found that Illinois Bell Telephone Co. failed to meet federal requirements that would allow the carrier to compete in the interLATA long-distance market.

The commission said Illinois Bell had satisfied requirements concerning interconnection offerings to competitors and that it was providing unbundled loops to requesting parties at an appropriate level of quality. The commission said, however, that while the carrier's network offerings were working, the operational support of the system (i.e., ordering, maintenance and repair and billing functions) had sufficient bugs to give customers of competing carriers the impression that they were receiving inferior service.

Under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, state regulators must review progress by local exchange carriers in opening the local telephone network to competitors using a "checklist" developed by the Federal Communications Commission. The list checks to see whether