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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - August 1998

method to determine whether water transmission and distribution plant was used and useful. The PSC had compared the number of lots to actual service connections, but the court said the lots-to-lots method was improper for areas marked by a mix of large condominiums and single-family residences. Southern States Utils. v. Fla. PSC, No. 96-4227, 1998 WL 299440, June 10, 1998 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.).

PURCHASED GAS ADJUSTMENT. A Missouri appeals court affirmed state commission orders that allowed a gas distribution utility to recover transition costs for gas restructuring through its purchased gas adjustment clause, denying arguments by a customer coalition that the policy improperly billed commodity costs to transportation-only customers. The case involved pipeline take-or-pay costs, Account 191 costs (unrecovered gas acquisition costs), and GSR (gas supply realignment costs for contract buyouts). Missouri ex. rel. Midwest Gas Users' Asso. v. Mo. PSC, No. WD 53810, 1998 WL 278188, June 2, 1998 (Mo.App.).

RATE FREEZE CONDITIONS. A Texas appeals court ruled that when a local exchange telephone carrier "opted out" of traditional rate-of-return regulation in exchange for promising a rate freeze, as allowed under a 1995 law, it lost its right under an adjustment mechanism to boost rates to recover increases in its state franchise tax liability, though such adjustments were guaranteed under a state law passed four years before. The court said the tax adjustment was like a fuel cost reconciliation, which it said would also violate a rate freeze. GTE Southwest Inc. v. Tex. PUC, No. 03-97-00619-CV, 1998 WL 318975, June 18, 1998 (Tex.App.).

LAND MANAGEMENT. California state law preempted efforts by a city to regulate an electric utility in dredging sand from a lagoon next to its power plant and depositing the sand on ocean beaches within the city. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. City of Carlsbad, No. D027407, 1998 WL 297380, June 9, 1998 (Cal.App., 4th Dist.).

TELEPHONE DIRECTORY PUBLISHING. Affirming a district court judge, a federal appeals court agreed that the Johnson Act bars attempts by a former Bell operating company to enjoin the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission in rate cases from imputing telephone directory publishing revenues from an unregulated affiliate to the regulated local carrier. U S WEST Inc. v. Nelson, No. 97-35551, 1998 WL 312806, June 16, 1998 (9th Cir.).

Congress

RENEWABLE ENERGY. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an Energy & Water Appropriations bill that would slash the U.S. Department of Energy's core program for renewable energy by $29 million for Fiscal Year 1999, while adding nearly $38 million in new funding for nuclear programs. The bill would gut funding for four renewable energy programs: geothermal reduced by $12 million (a 41 percent cut), photovoltaics by $9 million ( a 15 percent cut), biopower by $6 million (a 21 percent cut), and federal building/remote power by $2 million (40 percent). Other programs such as wind and solar thermal would receive roughly the same level of funding as in FY '98 -- well below the amounts requested by the Administration.

State Legislation

NEW YORK. The New York State Energy Planning Board has issued its Draft State