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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1998

improperly with market-area rates. NorAm Gas Trans. Co. v. FERC, No. 97-1101, 1998 WL 428974, July 31, 1998 (D.C.Cir.).

PIPELINE LEGAL COSTS. A federal appeals court remanded a gas pipeline rate case to the FERC, asking why it removed from rate base some $15 million in legal costs incurred by Iroquois pipeline to defend allegations of environmental violations. Citing a 1991 case involving AT&T's antitrust suit, the court ruled that illegality of conduct should not always compel a rate base disallowance for legal defense costs, since ratepayers sometimes benefit when utilities cut corners and then willingly bear the risk of litigation. Iroquois Gas Trans. Sys., L.P. v. FERC, Nos 97-1276 et al., 1998 WL 403645, July 21, 1998 (D.C.Cir.).

NUCLEAR RADIATION. A federal appeals court has affirmed that the 1998 amendments to the Price-Anderson Act, which create a federal remedy for injury from nuclear radiation, also preempt state tort law and thus preclude damage recovery for exposures that do not arise from a declared nuclear incident or exceed federal limits. Roberts v. Fla. P&L Co., No. 97-5195, 1998 WL 408819, July 22, 1998 (11th Cir.).

RATE SETTLEMENTS. The North Carolina Supreme Court has remanded a gas rate case, explaining that the state commission erred by setting return on equity based on a settlement not agreed to by all parties. It said the return figure came "directly, without any deduction," from the stipulation between the commission's public staff and the applicant, Pennsylvania & Southern Gas Co., dba North Carolina Gas Service. Absent full agreement by all parties, the court said, the commission must make an independent finding based on all evidence. N.C. Utils. Comm'n v. Carolina Util. Customers Assoc. Inc., 500 S.E.2d 693, July 9, 1998 (N.C.).

News Digest is compiled by Lori A. Burkhart and Phillip S. Cross, contributing legal editors, and by Beth Lewis, editorial assistant.

Details of Deregulation

PA PUC ON SLAMMING, METERING, BILLING. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has issued final rules on electric restructuring, including: (1) service quality for distribution utilities (Docket No. L-00970131 April 24, 1998); (2) universal service and energy conservation (Docket No. L-00970130, May 1, 1998); (3) electronic data transfer of customer information (Docket No. M-00960890.0015, June 19, 1998); and (4) enrollment procedures for direct access (Docket No. M-00960890.0014 May 21, 1998). Other issues include:

SLAMMING. A "no-tolerance" policy, with penalties of up to $1,000 per day per violation. PUC loosens some restrictions that could make it too difficult for customers to switch. Docket No. L-00970121, July 7, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

METERING. Finds no need to unbundle metering from distribution services. Advanced meters available to customers on request through utility tariffs. Docket No. L-00970128, May 14, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

SUPPLIER LICENSING. Competitors can use securities other than bonds to meet financial obligations for licensing. Docket No. L-00970129, April 24, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

RELIABILITY. PUC will address system reliability through record-keeping and reporting rather than specific standards. Docket No. L-00970120, April 24, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

BILLING. Suppliers who provide billing must offer budget billing or equivalent arrangements to residential customers. Docket No. M-00960890, June 18, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

ENERGY SOURCES. Suppliers