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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1998

and corporate logo on the front cover. Docket No. 96-01692, March 19, 1998 (Tenn.R.A.).

TELEPHONE YELLOW PAGES. Bell Atlantic-New Jersey Inc. (a local telephone carrier) won permission from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to spin off its "yellow pages" publishing to an affiliate, but must keep $116 million in directory revenues embedded in its local exchange rates because, according to the board, the spin-off plan included no rate change. The board said it would fix the final amount of compensation to ratepayers in a future proceeding. Docket No. to97100766, March 3, 1998 (N.J.B.P.U.).

STORM DAMAGE RESERVES. The Hawaii Public Utilities

Commission has rejected a proposal by utilities in the state to establish ratepayer-funded, self-insured property damage reserves (through a 1-percent rate surcharge over a 10- to 15-year term) to cover damages from natural disasters. The PUC cited several problems with the plan: (1) the unknown probability and magnitude of disasters and damages; (2) intergenerational inequity among ratepayers; and (3) unclear tax effects. Decision No. 16228, Docket No. 95-0051, March 4, 1998 (Haw.P.U.C.).

NEW RETAIL GAS SERVICE. In two cases that turned on expe- rience and financial capability, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved one proposal but denied another that would have electric utilities offering natural gas distribution service to areas not previously served.

First, it authorized Central Maine Power Co., in a joint venture with New York State Electric and Gas Co., to serve some 60 cities and towns that will have access to gas supplies from two new pipelines, the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System and Maritimes and Northeast. To back its decision, the PUC cited Central Maine's electric experience and NYSEG's gas expertise. Docket No. 96-786, March 11, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

Second, it rejected a proposal by Bangor Hydro Electric Co. to participate with Maritimes & NE in forming a gas distribution company to serve the Bangor area, describing the company's financial condition as "relatively precarious," marked by a bond rating of below investment grade, and finding no identified source of funds for the proposed $2.5-million investment. It also rejected a settlement by which Bangor would trim its investment to $1 million as well, and discounted claims that a recent rate increase of $13.2 million awarded in February would improve matters

sufficiently to justify the investment. Docket No. 97-796, March 26, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

TELCO DIVERSIFICATION. The Michigan Public Service Commission ruled that Ameritech Michigan violated state law when, without prior notice, it transferred $1.7 million in assets to Ameritech New Media Inc., an unregulated cable television affiliate, to help the company launch a video dialtone service. The PSC said notice was required because the assets were capable of use in providing regulated local exchange telephone service. It awarded attorney's fees to the Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association, which had filed the complaint. Case No. u-11507, March 24, 1998 (Mich.P.S.C.).

RETAIL GAS CHOICE. The Pennsylvania Public Utility

Commission has approved tariffs allowing Equitable Gas Co. to launch a program for customers to buy gas supplies from competitors, with marketers allowed to aggregate customer loads. The PUC will phase out rules