Business & Money
Sticking to the Knitting:
A review of three years of post-Enron stock performance by electric utilities.
Gas Capacity Rights. The New York PSC told retail suppliers that to serve firm retail gas load they must have rights to firm, non-recallable, primary delivery point pipeline capacity for the five winter months, November through March, or else must augment secondary capacity with a standby charge payable to local distribution companies holding primary rights.
Nevertheless, it acknowledged that part-year capacity is difficult to obtain (LDCs feel they get higher prices for releasing a 12-month block) and thus set a safe harbor rule promising that LDCs will get full credit for mitigating stranded capacity costs if they offer up at least a seven-month block of capacity to marketers, with no second-guessing by the PSC on the price. Case 97-G-1380, Aug. 18, 1999 (N.Y.P.S.C.).
GRI Funding. North Carolina denied a proposal by the Gas Research Institute to allow natural gas local distribution companies to recover voluntary contributions to GRI through their annual gas cost adjustment proceedings as a way of supplementing GRI funding to offset the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's mandatory phase-out (by 2005) of cost recovery for interstate pipelines for GRI contributions.
State regulators cautioned against automatic recovery, saying instead they would allow LDCs to defer voluntary GRI contributions and submit such items as operation and maintenance costs in ordinary rate cases. Docket No. G-100, SUB 76, Aug. 17, 1999 (N.C.U.C.).
Electric Reliability. The Illinois commission on Aug. 17 launched an investigation into the reliability and management of Commonwealth Edison's overall distribution system in response to the Aug. 12 power outage. The utility will pay the costs of the probe.
Right-of-Way Sale Proceeds. The Maine PUC ruled that electricity ratepayers of Central Maine Power Co. are entitled to proceeds from the utility's sale of rights of way on its transmission corridors to Portland Natural Gas Transmission System and Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline LLC, two gas pipeline projects planning to bring Canadian natural gas south into New England. The PUC allocated 90 percent of the proceeds to electricity ratepayers, while giving 10 percent to shareholders as an incentive for CMP to negotiate for the highest possible price in similar future transactions.
The PUC rejected CMP's argument that ratepayers are like tenants in that they do not bear any risk of loss, saying that CMP ratepayers shouldered significant economic burdens associated with the land. The PUC also noted that the transmission corridors over which the rights of way were granted generally were created through the use of eminent domain. Docket No. 99-155, Aug. 2, 1999 (Me.P.U.C.).
Commissioner Impartiality. Commissioner Nancy Brockway of the New Hampshire PUC denied motions by a taxpayer group and the state's consumer advocate seeking her disqualification for allegedly prejudging certain issues regarding stranded costs for Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, but she also asked her PUC colleagues to seek review at the state supreme court, since a reversal could void any decisions made in the dockets.
Brockway alone ruled on the motion, believing that state law required action by the "subject decisionmaker," subject to a supreme court appeal. The motion alleged she had warned a PUC witness