Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1996

Nymex Moves on Options Contracts

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) has asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to approve two applications for electricity options contracts, one based on each of the futures contracts already under consideration by the CFTC. (This past summer, NYMEX applied to offer trading in two electricity futures contracts, one for delivery at the California-Oregon border, and the other for delivery at the Palo Verde switchyard in Arizona.)

Except for delivery location, the terms of the two contracts are identical.

Moody's Finds Regulatory Change Slow

In its annual report on the U.S. electric industry, Moody's Investors Service has concluded that the average credit rating for the industry will deteriorate from its present 'A3' level to 'Baa1' over the next two to three years.

Idaho Project Sale of Local Exchanges

Diverging from the position taken by regulators in other states in the region, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has rejected proposals by U S WEST Communications, Inc., a

telephone local exchange carrier, to sell certain local

exchanges to independent telephone companies. It approved, however, a proposal to sell one of U S WEST's exchanges to a telephone cooperative association. Re U S WEST Communications Inc., Case Nos. PRJ-T-94-1; USW-S-94-4, Order No. 26198, Oct. 18, 1995 (Idaho P.U.C.).

NYSEG Proposes Price-cap Plan

New York State Electric & Gas Corp (NYSEG) and related parties have agreed to a settlement that would freeze natural gas prices for nearly three years, from December 1, 1995, until July 31, 1998. NYSEG would eliminate the gas adjustment and weather normalization clauses, and establish a service-quality incentive, setting earnings, rewards, or penalties based on performance.

N.Y. High Court Affirms Royalty Revenue Adjustments

The New York Court of Appeals, affirming a lower court ruling (Rochester Telephone Corp. et al. v. New York Public Service Commission, 201 A.D.2d 31, 155 PUR4th 511 (N.Y.App.Div.)), has upheld the authority of state regulators to use a "royalty" to reduce rates for services provided by local exchange carriers (LECs). The royalty was designed by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to compensate ratepayers for transfers of

intangible assets to unregulated subsidiaries.

Wisconsin Releases Restructuring EIS

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has drafted a 425-page (plus appendices) environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of its investigation into restructuring (Docket No. 05-EI-114). The EIS examines a number of different proposed models. The "status quo" model would maintain the present regulatory structure, but the PSC admitted that the present rate case structure is time-consuming and does not respond quickly to changed circumstances.

The "plausible extreme" model proposes a single transmission system owner.

Cost Shift to Residential Gas Users Uphold

The Arkansas Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by state regulators permitting Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co., a natural gas local distribution company, to allocate the total amount of a recent rate increase to residential users. According to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC), applying the entire $4.9-million increase to residential users was an appropriate means of preventing system bypass by larger customers, consistent with prior efforts at removing interclass subsidies. (See, Re Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co., a division of Arkla, Inc., 150 PUR4th 333 (Ark.P.S.C.

N.Y. PSC Calls for Speed

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has proposed accelerated restructuring of the electric industry in Phase II of its "competitive opportunities" proceeding (Case No. 94-E-0952). The proposal calls for wholesale competition by 1997, retail competition by 1998, separating generation from transmission and distribution, and forcing utilities to absorb a portion of their stranded investment.

Moody's Investors Service believes the proposal has generally negative credit implications for New York's investor-owned utilities.

VA High Court Upholds LEC Price-cap Plan

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the state's decision to implement a price-cap

alternative regulation plan for Bell Atlantic-Virginia, Inc., a telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC). Rejecting an appeal brought by the American Association of Retired Persons and other consumer groups, the court concluded that the Virginia State Corporation Commission had adequate support for its decision to replace existing ratemaking methods.