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Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1998

Evaluating Power Plant Property Taxes Under Deregulation

Steven P. Schneider

THREE FACTORS (em RESTRUCTURING, TECHNOLOGY AND environmental controls (em now create both reason and opportunity for electric utilities to lower their property taxes, which often make up a substantial cost of doing business.

Property tax valuation is fairly straightforward. Most states compute property taxes on fair market value, or what a hypothetical buyer and seller would agree the property is worth, with both parties having knowledge of the relevant facts and neither compelled to buy or sell.

Enron's Battle with PECO: An Inside View from Outside the Industry

Steve Isser and Steven A. Mitnick

FOR ALL THE ATTENTION FOCUSED ON NEW LAWS AND regulations designed to create competition in electric power markets, too few people seem to grasp how a market can work. That will change, however, now that Pennsylvania is the first large state to embrace market pricing.

Pennsylvania's lawmakers and three of its five utility commissioners have developed a market to deliver the benefits of competition to consumers.

A History Lesson How the PUC Viewed the Case

Elizabeth Striano

ON APRIL 1, 1997, nearly four months after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) had signed the state's Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act, PECO Energy Co. filed its restructuring plan with the state Public Utility Commission. To bolster the plan, PECO gathered a group of stakeholders to review it and craft a settlement. That agreement, somewhat different from the April restructuring plan, was filed with the PUC on Aug. 25. It became known as the Partial Settlement.

On Oct.

A Clean Divorce? Splitting the NY Power Pool ISO Toes the Line, but new Reliability Council Raises Brows

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

DOES IT MATTER THAT NEW YORK'S PROPOSED RELIAbility Council won't be truly independent, even though its distinctly separate independent system operator now plans to require pristine board membership?

Both organizations begin operating as early as July. On paper, any conflict between market needs (i.e. generation) and reliability issues (largely transmission and distribution) will head to the state public service commission or FERC. But reality may force that hand in the effort to restructure New York's wholesale market.

On Dec.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

WELCOME BACK, MY FRIENDS, TO THE SHOW that never ends."

So said two weary commission staffers, trudging out of the hearing room late Friday afternoon, Jan. 31, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission adjourned its technical conference on the financial outlook for natural gas pipelines.

The hearing ran way behind schedule (em further evidence that before she left last summer for the Department of Energy, former FERC Chairwoman Elizabeth Moler neglected to pass along to successor James Hoecker whatever gene she possessed that allowed her to keep meetings moving right along.

People

THE board of trustees for Con Edison named James P. O'Brien general auditor. O'Brien joined Con Edison in 1972 after serving in the U.S. Navy. He will replace Lawrence F. Travaglia who is retiring.

Consolidated Natural Gas Co. named Elena C. Mola vice president, Latin America/Europe, of its subsidiary CNG International.

Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution named David Johnson vice president of its distribution automation division.

The Energen board of directors announced two promotions.

News Digest

Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis

State Legislatures

UTILITY HOUSE CALLS. Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) signed into law a bill making it a felony to impersonate a utility employee to enter private property for criminal purposes. The new law calls for those convicted to be imprisoned for not more than two years and to pay a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.

ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (R) signed into law an electric restructuring bill for the state. Edgar noted that concerns over the bill were addressed by the state's two largest utilities, Commonwealth Edison and Illinois Power Co.

Perspective

Michael Schmidt

THE PEOPLE HAVE spoken. They want choice in power supply in California and in other states. But people are also "load," at least in utility parlance. And some load in some areas can prove awfully difficult to serve. They're called "load pockets."

The Challenge

A load pocket is formed when a deficiency in transmission capacity to a market area cannot be priced away sufficiently to clear the market during peak-load periods. Consequently, the market area must rely on "must-run," local generation units during part of or all of the year.

Texas Judge Rips Telecom Act Finds Prejudice Against Baby Bells

Phillip S. Cross

ON THE LAST DAY OF 1997, A U.S. DISTRICT COURT IN Texas struck down sections of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prevent former Bell System operating companies (BOCs) from entering certain lines of business, including interstate (and interLATA) long-distance. Some see the case as a clear victory for the BOCs. Others say it disrupts the delicate compromise forged by Congress among many diverse interests. In truth, the court's decision prompts a single question: Can Congress single out the BOCs for special treatment?

Speaking of Reliability

Lori M. Rodgers

THE North American Electric Reliability Council is in the midst of public workshops to discuss how best to implement the recommendations made in its Electric Reliability Panel's final report. In January, the NERC Board of Trustees approved, Reliable Power: Renewing the North American Electric Reliability Oversight System, which recommends transforming the current council into an independently governed and funded North American Electric Reliability Organization.

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