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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2000

of the Kentucky Public Service Commission. Williamson and Russell said further that as a result, maintenance levels and service quality "are already showing signs of strain."

But the merger applicants had answered those charges in documents filed at the FERC on June 16, noting that the FERC does not normally consider such issues in merger approval cases.

NiSource also had questioned the unions' concern over its failure to date to join a proposed ISO or RTO, noting that it was not a "major transmission owner," in terms of facilities used to wheel electricity from the Midwest to the East.

Meanwhile, concerned over sharing in merger benefits, golden parachutes for Columbia Energy executives, and potential tax revenue losses, a group of Ohio schools on June 1 petitioned the Ohio PUC to rehear its May 2 letter order to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission approving the proposed merger. The schools said they are ready to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Northeast Utilities + Con Ed. The FERC OK'd the proposed merger of Northeast Utilities with Consolidated Edison.

State Legislatures

Electric Restructuring. Michigan governor John Engler on June 3 signed into law an electric restructuring bill (Senate Bill 937, Public Act 141 of 2000), providing for retail supply choice by Jan. 1, 2002, allowing full recovery of stranded costs, but not forcing utilities to sell off power plants.

The law also mandates a 5 percent rate cut for residential electric customers of Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison below prices prevailing on May 1, and then capping residential rates through 2005. (Small businesses would see rates capped through 2004, and large commercial and industrial customers only through 2003.) See www.michiganlegislature. org/find.asp.

Emissions Trading. New York governor George Pataki has signed legislation that effectively bans the sale of sulfur dioxide allowances earned by power plants in the state to plants in 14 other states by imposing a monetary penalty on the seller equal to the value of any sale, thus negating the benefit of the transaction. For bill text, see http://LEGINFO.STATE. NY.US:82/nysleg/menugetf.cgi.

International Markets

Ontario Retail Choice. Citing a host of reasons, from reliability to billing system readiness, Jim Wilson, the Ontario minister of energy, science, and technology, announced a delay in the deregulation of the Ontario electricity market,saying that the November start date always had been merely a target to be continuously reevaluated. He did not want to commit to a firm date, but talked about a six-month window, and called for the creation of a time line of sorts. "To this end, I've asked the Market Oversight Committee to set key milestones along with deliver dates, and to develop and implement a reporting process so we make sure the yardsticks continue to move forward." For more of Wilson's explanation, see english/ar/sp_000622.html.

Power Plants

Hydro Dam Removal. In a case already rendered moot because the parties had settled-yet still of note because of its precedence-setting ramifications-the FERC denied rehearing of its 1997 order that for the first time directed the removal of a hydroelectric dam against the wishes of the owner.