Fortnightly Magazine - December 1996

Majority Whip Introduces Restructuring Bill

Signaling the direction he believes the 105th Congress should take, Rep. Tom DeLay

(R-TX) on the last day of the 104th Congress introduced legislation, H.R. 4297, "The Consumers Electric Power Act," to bring competition to the nation's electric industry.

Nevada Plans for Electric Bypass

As part of its ongoing investigation of electric industry restructuring, the Nevada Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued a report and solicited comment on appropriate regulatory response to customer bypass requests.

IRS Eyes Taxes in Debt - Equity Swaps

According to Chadbourne & Park, LLP, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is auditing U.S. companies that bought shares in foreign utilities in recent privatizations to determine whether they should have paid U.S. taxes.

All of the transactions involve debt-equity swaps, which can take many forms. For example, a U.S. company interested in buying shares in a foreign utility first goes into the market to buy bonds of the foreign government.

Telco Must Slash ISDN Rates

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has decided that Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania, Inc., a local-exchange telephone carrier (LEC), should reduce rates for its residential digital high-speed service offerings. The residential Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) service enables users to access and send voice, data, and imaging services at the same time over their telephone lines.

FERC to Examine Market Dominance for NiMO

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conditionally approved market-based power-sales rates for Plum Street Energy Marketing, Inc., an affiliate of Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NMP) (Docket No. ER96-2525-000). It also set for hearing the issue of whether transmission constraints result in market dominance by NMP or its affiliate.

Plum Street's application to market and broker electric power states that it would not market power to NMP unless so authorized by the FERC.

Electric Discount Satisfies Mich. PSC

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a request by Detroit Edison Co., to offer a special discount contract to one of its large industrial customers, MasoTech, Inc. The customer had failed in an earlier attempt to compel the utility to offer transmission service so that it could gain "direct access" to other sources of electric power. See, Re MasoTech Forming Technologies, Inc., 168 PUR4th 142 (Mich.P.S.C.1996).

Diversification, Round Two: Telecom Act Has Electrics at it Again.

Once burned, but twice eager, utilities reprise their 1980s-era strategy, this time in the telephone business.

"It's not like they're going to open a pharmacy. It is directly related in some way, or at least arguably."

Earlier this year, 15 utilities grabbed the brass ring: a full-blown chance to enter the telecom business.

FERC Changes Policy in First Negotiated Gas Rate Order

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has announced two policy changes in its first final order on negotiated rates under its policy statement on Alternatives to Traditional Cost-of-Service Ratemaking. The FERC will now require pipelines to file either negotiated rate contracts or tariff sheets that reflect the essential elements of their negotiated rate agreements. In addition, pipelines will no longer be permitted discounted adjustments to their recourse rates.

The case involved NorAm Gas Transmission Co. (Docket No. RP96-200-001).

Off Peak

Stranded Costs Projected at -$2.9B to $22B

The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) was scheduled this month to consider estimates of retail competition's impact on electric utilities.

A draft staff report, yet to be reviewed by the PUC, estimates stranded costs that span a high of $22 billion to a low of negative $2.9 billion.