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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - February 1 1999

steam generator tube inspections at 24-month intervals rather than 18-month intervals. The NRC pointed out that the "novel" proceeding could have broad implications for other cases. The question was whether the utility could bring about a major operational change, such as a lengthened fuel cycle, through several incremental license amendments rather than a single licensing action.

At the request of the parties, the NRC held the proceedings in abeyance to allow settlement negotiations to go forward. No settlement was reached and NAESCO withdrew its license amendment requests while asking that the proceeding be terminated.

Fossil Divestitures. Commonwealth Edison on Dec. 9 announced plans to sell its natural gas/oil burning Collins plant, as well as its peaking units in conjunction with the previously announced sale of its coal-fired generation business. While Illinois restructuring laws prompted the divestiture, ComEd said it opted to sell after gauging the interest in, and market value of, the assets.

"We decided to move forward with selling Collins and the peakers, as well as the coal plants, because we received a substantial amount of interest from ¼ across the energy industry," said Celia David, ComEd divestiture vice president.

Hydro Divestitures. The Association of California Water Agencies has asked the California PUC to open an investigation into the future ownership of the state's hydroelectric generating facilities, as divestiture continues in the deregulated electric market.

The move came as the PUC was considering whether to approve Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s divestiture of its hydroelectric plants. According to ACWA, most of California's water supplies flow through PG&E's hydroelectric projects before being consumed.

"A change in management of these [hydro] projects or in the land surrounding them could degrade water quality," said Steve Hall, ACWA executive director.


Stranded Costs, Part 1. The New Hampshire Supreme Court told the state PUC that it may award less than full recovery of stranded costs in electric generation when it eventually considers a final restructuring plan for Public Service Co. of New Hampshire under a 1996 state law that mandates electric competition. The court gave controlling effect to the 1996 law over a financial bailout deal struck in 1990 between PSNH, the PUC and the state legislature, which had paved the way for PSNH to merge with Northeast Utilities after it had filed for bankruptcy in the wake of disputes concerning its investment in the Seabrook nuclear plant.

On a narrow point, the court said the PUC violated the bankruptcy deal by comparing local utility rates with regional averages, among other factors, to compute which stranded costs are recoverable. In a broader sense, however, the court stopped short of defining the bankruptcy deal as a binding contract. The PUC must consider the bailout, the court said, but only to the extent that it comports with the 1996 restructuring law. That law, the court noted, had cited the bailout deal as a "significant contributor" to the state's high electric rates. It saw those high rates as what prompted the legislature to deregulate electric services. Re N.H. PUC Statewide Elec. Util. Restruct. Plan, No. 98-114, Dec. 23,