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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1998

found that CL&P's reliability had improved generally since 1992 (not for major storms, however), but that company's buried primary cable was prone to premature failure. It said that UI's reliability had been improving since 1988 (recently it had been "exceptionally good"), but warned that UI's system reliability must be "monitored closely" as the company extends its scheduled interval for tree trimming on single-phase lines. Docket Nos. 97-11-10, 8-12-03, Aug. 21, 1998 (Conn.D.P.U.C.).

Labor Rights. The Utah Public Service Commission ruled it lacked authority to grant back wages to an employee who complained that Utah Power & Light's 1988 merger with Pacific Power & Light Co. (to form PacifiCorp) led to her transfer to a new position at lower pay. The PSC's 1988 merger approval order had required PacifiCorp to try to retain employees in current or equivalent positions at equal pay. Docket No. 97-035-09, Aug. 18, 1998 (Utah P.S.C.).

Water Utility Financials. Noting that 17 water utilities in the state failed to earn any net income in 1997, and yet had not shown any specific intent to file a full rate case, the Kentucky PSC has suggested that water utilities should file long-term business plans. It added that some companies had not seen full rate reviews in 15 years. Admin. Case No. 366, Aug. 19, 1998 (Ky.P.S.C.).

Studies and Reports

Federal Energy Subsidies. A new private study of federal subsidies for the energy industry over the past 50 years finds that coal and nuclear technologies produced the greatest return on R&D investment and have been underfunded, while solar and wind energy systems have offered the poorest returns.

The report, Federal Incentives for the Energy Industries, from Management Information Services, Inc., a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., sees a negligible contribution by renewables to energy and electricity production through 2010, suggesting that subsidies for renewables will not mitigate global warming. See http://www.misi-net.com.

TVA Privatization. Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Bob Franks (R-NJ) joined with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on September 15 to release a report advocating privatization of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The report, Restructure TVA (em Why the Tennessee Valley Must Be Reformed, was written by Richard Munson, of the Northeast-Midwest Institute, a nonprofit policy center.

The TVA Customer Protection Act, introduced in Congress in April, would make TVA a "public utility" required to file tariffs and subject to antitrust laws. Frelinghuysen said TVA was in "financial disarray," with $29 billion of debt. He added: "TVA's own inspector general earlier this year uncovered a $5 million secret retirement account, six-figure bonuses, and noncompetitive consulting contracts."

Natural Gas Demand. The Michigan Public Service Commission on October 5 released its energy appraisal for the coming winter season, predicting a 4.8-percent drop in natural gas sales statewide for calendar 1998 as against 1997, falling from 937 to 892 billion cubic feet. Download the report at http://ermisweb.cis.state.mi.us/energy.

FERC

Hydroelectric Decommissioning. After a contentious one and one-half hour debate that left Commissioners Curt Hébert and William Massey as antagonists, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted to uphold its precedent-setting 1997 order forcing decommissioning and removal