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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1998

third-quarter after-tax gain of approximately $7.8 million or $.57 per share on the transaction.

Madison Gas & Electric Co. and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. agreed to build an 83-megawatt gas-fired power plant on a site owned by WPS. Construction would begin in June 1999.

Washington Water Power Co. announced on Aug. 17 that it would slash its common stock dividend by 61 percent, from $1.24 to 48 cents (yield equaling 2.3 percent), effective with the dividend paid Dec. 15, 1998, to use the capital to fund growth. In a separate move, the board of directors approved Avista Corp. as the company's new name effective Jan. 1, 1999.


NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL. The U.S. Senate on September 2 by a 78-15 vote approved the Texas-Maine-Vermont Radioactive Waste Compact Bill (H.R. 629) allowing those states to form the nation's tenth low-level radioactive waste disposal compact. It would lead to the construction of a nuclear waste disposal facility in Texas, allowing Maine and Vermont to send their nuclear waste there.

H.R. 629 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 30. President Clinton expected to sign the bill into law. Passage was lauded by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear electric industry's trade association, but opposition remained, as opponents from Texas held a press conference after the Senate vote, pointing out that a small, Hispanic town, Sierra Blanca, was the likely candidate for the disposal site. "If this isn't a classic case of environmental racism, I don't know what is," declared Bill Addington, a Sierra Blanca grocer who had gone on a hunger strike to protest the compact and the dump.

Generating Plants

MERCHANT PLANT CERTIFICATION. In a 3-2 decision in a case of first impression, the California Energy Commission has ruled that because plant output will be sold to the California Power Exchange, the 1048-megawatt, gas-fired, combined-cycle La Paloma Generating Project under development by U.S. Generating Co. qualifies for an exemption not to file a Notice of Intent to seek siting certification with the commission - an exemption otherwise available only for gas-fired plants which "are the result of competitive solicitations or negotiations."

According to the commission, the PX should be viewed "as a continuing series of solicitations or negotiations" conducted in real time: "It would be unrealistic to require executed contracts or agreements in the context of the presently developing market created by AB 1890, since a power producer will no longer necessarily sell to a discrete consumer or utility."

Dissenting commissioner Michal C. Moore argued that the NOI process should still serve a valid purpose, since it requires advance submission of alternative sites: "Merchant plants would benefit from the NOI process and its ability to establish the eligibility of sites for future development of power plants and related facilities." Docket No. 98-SIT-1, Aug. 12, 1998 (Cal.EnergyComm'n).

NUCLEAR OPERATIONS. Four Midwest utilities - Wisconsin Energy Corp, WPS Resources Corp., Alliant Corp., and Northern States Power Co. - have joined to combine planning and supply purchases for seven nuclear reactors totaling 3,650-MW at five sites in Wisconsin and Iowa. The utilities