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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1998

utility's franchise area and use trade names that resemble utility's name.

3. Default (Standard-Offer) Generation. Competitive suppliers can bid to serve default load.

Previously, the commission had required incumbent utilities to make new wholesale purchases if necessary to serve default customers. But on rehearing, the PSC expressed concern that forcing all default load on utilities might be misconstrued as a new extension of the historic duty to serve at regulated, bundled rates. dr 96-150, Order No. 22,875, March 20, 1998 (N.H.P.U.C.).

A month later, on April 21, Moody's Investors Service confirmed credit ratings of Public Service Co. of New Hampshire (Sr. Secured, 'Ba3') and its affiliate North Atlantic Energy Corp. (Sr. Secured, 'B1'), taking the companies off review for possible downgrade. The action was seen as reflecting a lower probability that PSNH could be forced into a near-term default following the PUC's March 20 rehearing order. However, the state supreme court is still reviewing legal questions concerning the effect of the PUC orders on a prior rate settlement for PSNH that resolved issues related to bankruptcy.

Moody's noted that while the rehearing order theoretically would allow stranded cost recovery to be determined on a cost-based approach, restructuring will be delayed pending court review unless PSNH voluntarily settles with the state. Presently, a temporary federal restraining order prohibits the state from implementing restructuring as it pertains to PSNH.

UTILITY MARKETING AFFILIATES. The California Public Utilities Commission found that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had allowed its affiliated electric service provider, PG&E Energy Services, to misuse the parent company's name and logo in soliciting business. The PUC will penalize the company $500 to $20,000 per offense, depending on how often the violation occurred in newspaper advertisements that carried an illegible utility/affiliate relationship disclaimer. The PUC stressed that it was putting all utilities on notice that they must clearly show the distinction between the parent utility company and affiliates using the parent company name. Docket r.97-04-011, April 9, 1998 (Calif. P.U.C.).

ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING. The Alabama Public Service Commission has begun a broad-based investigation of electric industry restructuring, even while noting that the state already enjoys "some of the most efficient and reasonably priced electric utility services in the nation." Noting an increasing "national emphasis" on the issue, it felt a review was prudent, since restructuring could be mandated at some point at the federal level. Docket 26427, April 7, 1998 (Ala.P.S.C.).

ESP REGISTRATION. The California PUC issued an interim decision revoking the registration of Boston-Finney, a recent non-utility entrant in the California electric market. The commission began investigating the ESP after receiving evidence of improper marketing practices by the company, labeled by some as a "pyramid scheme." The company decided to abandon its registration after being ordered to stop recruiting state residents to become "account executives" and "independent distributors" and soliciting payments from the new potential marketing agents. The revocation of the registration would not affect the continuing investigation of the offending practices by the company, the commission said. Decision 98-03-035, i.98-02-004, March 12, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

RENEWABLE RESOURCES. The Maine Public Utilities Commission is studying