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Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1995

Virginia Power Fights Muni Flight

Lori A. Burkhart

Virginia Power (VP) has asked the Virginia Corporation Commission to prevent a municipality, the City of Falls Church, from ousting VP as the provider of electric service (Case No. PUE9500). VP says the city notified the utility that it intended to establish either a municipal purchasing or marketing entity or an electric utility that would own or control enough transmission or distribution facilities to avoid the "sham wholesale transaction" prohibition of the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

PSC Washes Hands of QF Contract Dispute

Phillip S. Cross

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has refused to settle a dispute between Florida Power Corp., an electric utility, and numerous qualified cogenerating facilities (QFs) over pricing terms contained in negotiated purchased-power agreements previously approved as cost-effective. The PSC ruled that interpretation of provisions in negotiated, as opposed to approved standard-offer, contracts between utilities and QFs was a matter for the courts and rejected allegations that review and approval gave the PSC continuing jurisdiction to interpret the contracts.

LEC Competition Gains Ground in Texas

Lori A. Burkhart

Rep. Curtis Seidlits, Jr. (D) has filed a 245-page telecommunications bill, H.B. 2128, in the Texas legislature. The bill seeks to move regulated local exchange carriers (LECs) to a more competitive arena. It also addresses issues such as infrastructure improvements, telemedicine, and the information highway. H.R. 2128 culminates two years of study by the Joint Interim Committee (House and Senate members) on Telecommunications on how to reform the way Texas telephone companies are regulated.

Interruptible Tariffs Labeled Burden

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved tariff revisions proposed by Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. (PP&L), an electric utility, to limit the availability of its interruptible services. The PUC also directed PP&L to file new interruptible rates at its next rate case, based on the cost of providing such service and on the value to the utility of maintaining its interruptible load.

Wisconsin Gas Customers May Get to Choose

Lori A. Burkhart

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has initiated a proceeding to pursue development of a market-based approach to natural gas regulation (Docket No. 05-GI-108). A public hearing has been set for May 16. The PSC's goal is to remove barriers to competition and permit customers to choose their natural gas service. Under the model, the PSC would stop regulating a utility's natural gas costs when it finds that a competitive market has developed for a given class of service.

IntraLATA Dialing Parity Spreading

Phillip S. Cross

To further competition in the state's telephone industry, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to require local exchange telephone carriers (LECs) to offer intraLATA presubscription as part of the access services provided for competitors in the toll-call market. It found the lack of "1+" dialing parity (experienced by customers who choose interexchange carriers (IXCs) rather than LECs for intraLATA toll calling) a competitive barrier that could be removed without diminshing access to basic telephone service for Florida consumers.

Nuclear Waste Storage Effort Moves Forward

Lori A. Burkhart

In response to the recent vote by the Mescalero Apache Tribe approving creation of a temporary nuclear waste storage site on tribal lands in New Mexico, the consortium of 34 utilities seeking a spent-fuel site have geared up for action.

According to Scott Northard, project manager for the consortium, Northern States Power Co. (NSP) (em which has spearheaded the effort (em has met with the other utilities and found enough interest to move forward with the process. May 3 is the target date for firm utility commitments to the project.

LEC Rejects Price-cap Plan

Phillip S. Cross

While reconsidering an earlier rate case order for New England Telephone & Telegraph Co., a telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC), the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has approved an incentive regulation plan for the LEC and set out a series of recommendations to guide the development of a full price-cap regulation plan. Nevertheless, the PSB noted that a problem had developed in the case as a result of combining the revenue requirement aspect of the rate proceeding with consideration of the LEC's price-cap plan.

Resources West Merger Promises Big Savings

Lori A. Burkhart

Sierra Pacific Resources and The Washington Water Power Co. have filed a report at the Nevada Public Service Commission on their proposed merger to form Resources West Energy (RWE), estimating a combined savings of $449 million over the next 10 years. As a result, the utilities propose to freeze rates until at least 2000, except for one limited price increase in Nevada in 1997 and selected adjustments for energy supplies or extenuating circumstances.

About 42 percent of the savings will result from consolidation of duplicate functions and reductions in the workforce.

Perspective

Leonard S. Hyman

How do American electric utilities differ from water companies, telephone companies, airlines, insurance firms, food processors, newspapers, steel mills, and other industries in the United States? "They produce electricity and the others don't," you answer. Maybe, but the others can produce electricity, too, if they want to.

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