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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1998

channels (as do many propane or heating oil users), the PSC put aside warnings by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. against shielding gas customers from "the natural consequences of choosing unwisely." Case No. u-11108, Feb. 25, 1998 (Mi.P.S.C.).

RETAIL ACCESS PLAN. The New York Public Service Commission upheld an earlier ruling requiring Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. to allow direct access to alternative suppliers, including permitting gas marketers to own and install metering devices. RG&E had asked the commission to reconsider its metering decision, including safety and legal questions, and whether the gas metering decision was consistent with electric metering rules. Case 93-g-0932, 95-g-1035, Feb. 12, 1998 (N.Y.P.S.C.).

TERMINATION OF SERVICE. The Wyoming Public Service Commission authorized U S West Communications Inc. to cut off long-distance services to customers who fail to pay outstanding long-distance bills. Docket No. 70000-tt-97-367, Jan. 14, 1998 (Wyo.P.S.C.).

TELCO RATE DESIGN. Denying claims that the move would impede local telephone competition, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has allowed Bell Atlantic Pennsylvania Inc. to cut charges by expanding local calling areas in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and to make up the difference through higher directory charges. The PUC said the issue would be the same regardless of the number of local carriers. r-00974176, Feb. 5, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

WATER SYSTEM TAKEOVERS. While authorizing United Water Pennsylvania Inc. to increase rates by more than $2 million, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission rejected a request by the company to recover costs it had incurred in a failed attempt to purchase a neighboring bankrupt small water system, saying that customers should not bare responsibility for the failed acquisition. Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell argued that the utility should be rewarded for its efforts to acquire the troubled water system with an upward adjustment to its return on common equity, while dissents came from two other commissioners, David W. Rolka and John Hanger, on whether the utility's capital ratios should reflect the overall holding company structure. r-00973947 et al., Jan 30, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

CONSUMER CREDIT RISK. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is considering whether utilities can cite past-due uncollectible accounts to justify denying service to prospective customers. The rulemaking responds to a complaint filed by 10 community-based organizations complaining of unusually large deposits, and that AEP Indiana and Northern Indiana Public Service Co. had denied service because of unpaid bills that dated beyond the four-year statute of limitations. Case No. 40790.

ELECTRIC "SLAMMING" SETTLEMENT. The Pennsylvania PUC has fined PP&L Resources Inc. $50,000 in resolving complaints that the utility "slammed" customers by signing them up for its electric retail pilot program without their consent after they had only inquired about the utility's "EnergyPlus" offering. PP&L also must repay 10 percent of the bills of the past 12 months for slammed customers. The PUC said the problem occurred because contractors of PP&L used improper coding when processing orders. Docket No. m-0098, March 26, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

ELECTRIC RATE FREEZE. Nevada Power Co. asked the Nevada PUC to allow it to cap electric rates for all customers until July 2000 as part of its request for a $45 million fuel