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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2000

technology related to finding, delivering, and using natural gas," said John F. Riordan, president and chief executive officer of GTI. "But we are now a broader and deeper 'one-stop' technology organization, able to help a wider range of customers meet their technology needs."

He noted that GTI will continue to manage a cooperative research and development program of broad value to gas customers and the gas industry through 2004, using funds authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission . On June 1, the company filed its application for a $70 million program in 2001 with the FERC.

Under an alliance between National Home Connections LLC , a single-source connection for home buyers, renters, and sellers with utility connection and home services needs, and Utility.Com, NHC will provide information about Utility.Com to the millions of customers who are in the process of moving each year. NHC is part of Cendant Corp. , which markets NHC services through its Move.Com relocation portal.

Arthur Andersen has launched a major nationwide initiative to help utility companies develop and implement effective eBusiness strategies. "For many utilities, the promise of eBusiness has been obscured by a cloud of confusion," said Michael Rutkowski, senior manager in Arthur Andersen's Chicago office. "Deregulation and restructuring have made it difficult for them to determine where eBusiness fits in their overall strategy. Implementing an eBusiness initiative without a clear strategy is risky. We help utilities clear the confusion and develop a practical plan for action."

Sempra Energy Trading , a subsidiary of energy services company Sempra Energy and a wholesale energy trading and marketing company, will use Excelergy Corp.'s new Internet energy portal, Energy Marketplace, to launch a custom energy portal service for its customers. "The portal provides an innovative combination of third-party Web applications with our own internal data applications for our customers," said David Messer, president of Sempra Energy Trading.

Mergers & Acquisitions

NiSource + Columbia Energy. On June 23 attorney David Pomper (Spiegel & McDiarmid) notified the FERC that his clients from organized labor had settled their differences with NiSource and Columbia Energy Group, regarding the planned merger of the two companies, and thus wished to withdraw the unions' protest filed against the merger at the FERC, but reserving their rights to challenge the deal before those state PUCs still conducting reviews.

Earlier, however, in testimony filed June 9, the union witnesses had launched a scathing attack against the deal, railing against allegedly excessive layoffs at Columbia Energy, and charging that the proposed merger was "largely about moving, storing, and selling gas to peaking and distributed electric generation, in order to profit from price instability, volatility, and differentials in electricity markets."

Instead of layoffs, the unions had claimed that staff increases were needed.

"Due to past hiring practices and early retirement programs, Columbia's workforce in its distribution and transmission ("pipe") functions have already been cut to the bone, and now the bone is being scraped," said union witnesses Larry Williamson, of Mountaineer Gas, and George Russell, of Columbia Gas of Kentucky, in testimony on the merger given in front