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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 2000

a state flood control project had rerouted a creek and thereby uprooted a gravel seam containing coal tar deposited by a former utility-owned coal gasification plant. PFG Gas Inc. v. Pennsylvania, No. 261 M.D. 1999, Nov. 4, 1999 (Pa.Cmwlth.).

Utility Trade Secrets. A state court ruled that Yankee Gas Services Co. could use the Freedom of Information Act to compel the city of Norwich to disclose a cost of service study the city had prepared to build a pipeline and deliver and sell natural gas to a local Indian tribe.

The court said that Norwich had forfeited any right to protect secrets when it made the study available to city employees and "various members" of the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Norwich Dept. of Pub. Utils. v. Freedom of Info. Comm'n, No. 18549, 1999 WL 985431, Nov. 2, 1999 (Conn.App.).

QF Certification. A federal appeals court struck down a pair of FERC orders that let the owner of a landfill methane plant choose to burn natural gas as up to 25 percent of its energy input to "levelize" power output to match a purchaser's load and still qualify as a small power production facility (QF).

The FERC had OK'd the gas firing to make better use of the QF's "essential fixed assets," but the court said that QF certification rules made no such allowance. So. Calif. Ed. Co. v. FERC, No. 98-1439, Nov. 2, 1999 (D.C.Cir.).

Transmission & ISOs

California ISO Pricing. The FERC by a 3-2 vote allowed the California ISO to retain authority to impose purchased price caps for ancillary services, which were due to expire Nov. 15, 1999, until Nov. 15, 2000.

Commissioner Vicky Bailey dissented, stating that the order represented a sharp departure from three earlier orders dating back to the summer of 1998. "We granted price caps with considerable hesitation and wanted them gone by Nov. 15 unless the ISO could show serious market design flaws," she observed. Commissioner Curt Hébert also dissented. Docket No. ER99-4462, Nov. 10, 1999 (F.E.R.C.).

Transmission Siting. A hearing examiner at the Virginia commission has delayed an evidentiary hearing until May 1, 2000, on a 765-kilovolt transmission line proposed for construction by American Electric Power in the Southwest part of the state. The commission will now consider two possible alternative routes.

Northern Maine ISA. The FERC granted regional transmission group status to the Northern Maine Independent System Administrator, which includes all transmission systems of investor-owned utilities and co-ops in Northern Maine. Docket No. ER99-4225-000, Nov. 10, 1999 (F.E.R.C.).

Firm Transmission Rights. Responding to questions by the California ISO, the FERC ruled that electric firm transmission rights are jurisdictional and subject to FERC policy, and that the ISO must post on its website the identities of FTR holders. Docket No. ER98-3594-000, Nov.10, 1999 (F.E.R.C.).

Desert STAR. Desert STAR announced Nov. 4 that it has incorporated as a nonprofit member corporation, marking the start of its attempt at becoming the independent system operator of the Desert Southwest region. "The challenge now facing everyone involved in the Desert STAR development is to move