Competition draws Christians, conspiracy theorists.
SO, WHO WANTS TO COMPETE AGAINST THE LOCAL UTILITIES? In most of the country, potential competitors tend to fall into three categories...
NITROGEN-OXIDE EMISSION LIMITS. Denying an appeal by electric utilities and industry groups against rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emission limits for nitrogen oxides at certain electric utility boilers, a federal appeals court has ruled that EPA properly interpreted the Clean Air Act. The act allows EPA to set NOx limits for certain electric utility boilers if it could show that more effective technology for low-NOx burners was available, the court said. It said the EPA acted reasonably in relying on linear regression models and a dollars-per-ton cost-benefit method in estimating emissions, mitigation and benefits. However, it vacated and remanded the EPA's decision to reclassify retrofitted cell burner boilers as wall-fired boilers. Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA, Nos. 96-1497, Feb. 13, 1998, 1998 wl 56312 (D.C.Cir.).
ANTITRUST ISSUES. A U.S. District Court has postponed a review of allegations that a small local exchange telephone carrier, Camden Telephone, had violated federal antitrust laws by failing to provide subscriber listings to a competitive directory publishing company, Direct Media Corp., at a reasonable price. (The publisher's other option would be to copy the LEC's white page directory.) The court ruled that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires LECs to provide directory listings at a reasonable price and that the Federal Communications Commission has primary jurisdiction to resolve the issue. Direct Media Corp. v. Camden Tel. & Tel. Co., Inc., No. cv296-108, Dec. 2, 1997 (S.D.Georgia).
YELLOW PAGES REVENUE. The Washington Supreme Court upheld a decision by state regulators to impute Yellow Pages Revenues earned by a publishing affiliate US West Direct when setting base local telephone rates for US West Communications Inc., explaining that the affiliate derived substantial benefits from its relationship with the parent company. It also upheld other findings that had led to rate reductions for the carrier. (In 1996 state regulators had told the carrier to trim rates by $91.5 million, citing service quality problems.) U S West Communications, Inc. v. Wash. UTC, Dec. 24, 1997, 949 P.2d 1337 (Wash.).
WATER UTILITY METERS. Endorsing automated meter reading, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned a 1996 state PUC order that had rejected a wireless AMR installation by the city of Providence as too costly, but OK'd upgrades to older electronic meter interface units (also known as ARB), already in place for a third of the utility's 68,000 retail accounts. Said the court: "Given the benefits of AMR over ARB, a one-time $78 charge per account arguably would prove more cost-effective." Providence Water Supply Bd. v. R.I. PUC, No. 96-600-m.p., March 11, 1998, 1998 wl 122623 (R.I.).
COAL/UTILITY CROSS-OWNERSHIP. The Federal Trade Commission has requested
comments by April 27 on a proposed agreement with PacifiCorp to address charges that a planned acquisition would lead to increases in U.S. electricity prices. The acquisition in question, which was not yet final as of Feb. 18, would have PacifiCorp bidding $10.7 billion for The Energy Group, PLC, a U.K. company that owns Peabody Coal in the U.S., which in turn owns two mines (Kayenta and Black Mesa) that offer the sole