Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1995

MidAmerican Energy Gets Green Light

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the proposed merger of Midwest Power Systems, Inc. and Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric Co. to form MidAmerican Energy Co. as consistent with the public interest (Docket No. EC95-4-000).

The City of Independence, MO, asked the FERC to condition the merger on MidAmerican providing some form of protection against merger-related rate increases, but the FERC found no evidence that costs would increase as a result of the merger.

Mailbag

Salt River Project has appointed Capitol Hill veteran Renee Eastman manager of federal affairs. Eastman previously served four years as a representative for Sun Company, the nation's largest independent oil refiner and marketer.

Peter M. Schwolsky, former executive v.p. at New Jersey Resources Corp., has joined Columbia Gas System as senior v.p. He will become chief legal officer of the corporation later this year.

Financial News

The California Public Utilities

Commission (CPUC) moved a tortured step closer to deciding how it will reform its regulation of the

state's electric utilities when it

adopted a Proposed Policy Decision in its proceeding on competition by a 3-to-1 vote on May 24. The Proposed Decision retreats from the free-market approach the CPUC took when it presented its "Blue Book" proposal in April 1994.

Massachusetts Calls for Retail, Wholesale Competition

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci have filed a proposal with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that would require all Massachusetts electric utilities to develop deregulation plans by the end of 1995.

In the proposal, the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources (DOER) asks the DPU to issue a June 16 restructuring timetable that schedules a final order around August 1.

Penn. Fights for Gas Incentive Regulation

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has reaffirmed earlier rulings establishing performance-based rate mechanisms for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., citing its authority to implement modified versions of a capacity-release sharing mechanism and an incentive mechanism for purchased gas costs.

Coal Hauling Contract Leads to Virginia Power Refund

The Virginia Corporation Commission has approved an $8.3-million repayment by Virginia Power (VP) for excessive fuel costs resulting from a 1991 coal-hauling contract with CSX Transportation Inc. The contract became the focus of attention during a dispute last year between the utility and its corporate parent, Dominion Resources, Inc. (DRI).

Commission staff found in a January report that DRI chairman and CEO Thomas E. Capps had pressured VP into the contract, which was expected to benefit the company.

Performance-based Ratemaking

Performance-based ratemaking (PBR) departs from the cost-of-service standard in setting just and reasonable utility rates, but that departure isn't as easy as it looks.

Up until now, cost-of-service ratemaking has provided relatively stable rates, while enabling utilities to attract enormous amounts of capital. Of late, however, regulators appear to be heeding the argument that changing markets warrant a second look.

Wisconsin Wants More EMF Research on Farms

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has called for additional research on Wisconsin dairy farms to determine what impact electromagnetic fields (EMF), direct current, and ground currents may have on dairy cattle. According to the PSC, Wisconsin farmers have been noticing behavioral changes in their milking herds for some years now (em changes that affect milk production.

Two More States Launch Electric Restructuring

Utility regulators in Minnesota and Nevada have opened dockets on electric utility restructuring, citing (Minnesota) the Energy Policy Act of 1992 as having lifted barriers to wholesale competition, and seeking (Nevada) recommendations on alternative ratemaking.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) said it would view open competition as "one part of a continuum of possible change," from traditional vertical integration to full deregulation.

Texas Opens Up Local Phone Service

Texas Gov. George Bush on May 26 signed into law a comprehensive bill, H.B. 2128, that makes sweeping changes in the way the state regulates telecommunications. The bill allows competitors to provide local exchange services by obtaining a certificate of operating authority (COA) or to resell local services through a service-provider certificate of operating authority. The COA is designed for facilities-based local exchange, and requires competitors to serve customers within a 27-square-mile area within 30 days of customer request.

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