The New Mexico Public Utility Commission has authorized Public Service Company of New Mexico to launch a major new program to help small-volume end users take advantage of alternate gas supply sources.
The action follows an investigation by the commission of an offer by the utility to exit the gas merchant function.
Under the new program, small customers can purchase gas from a list of qualified marketers beginning with the first billing cycle for December 1997. The company, under a newly designed transportation tariff, will provide delivery service aimed at "encouraging marketers to offer merchant services to residential and small-volume end users."
While the new program offers an initial term of only one year, the commission cautioned that it is not a pilot program. Pilot program status and associated limits on the number of participants were found unnecessary in a state like New Mexico "where open access already exists." (According to the commission, residential transportation service has been available for more than a decade.)
It added that the program was designed to provide information on permanent implementation issues such as how to treat the obligation to serve, provider of last resort and universal service requirements in an environment with customer choice. Nevertheless, the commission acknowledged that stranded costs could become an issue if more than 40,000 customers leave the system. It ruled that the LDC could file a request for stranded cost recovery should that occur. Re Public Service Co. of New Mexico, Case No. 2760, Aug. 18, 1997 (N.M.P.U.C.).
Phillip S. Cross is an associate legal editor with Public Utilities Fortnightly.
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