Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1997

"Slamming" Complaints Spark Action, Legislation

The Alabama Public Service Commission has formally requested that state law enforcement officials prosecute a reseller of telecommunications services for ongoing incidents of "deceptive and misleading" marketing activities.

The so-called "slamming" practices include switching customers without documenting their consent. Earlier in the year, the commission had found that Long Distance Services Inc. had engaged in a series of improper practices, including the use of sweepstake boxes, to sign up new customers to its service without proper consent.


Bay State Gas Co. has sold its 17.5-percent equity interest in the Masspower cogeneration plant to Energy Investors Fund Group. The sale price wasn't released; Bay State said it was more than book value. The 240-megawatt, gas-fired combined-cycle plant provides steam for Monsanto Co.

Bridgeport, Conn., is the planned site of a $260-million, 520-MW power plant. Duke Energy Power Services, United Illuminating Co. and Siemens Power Ventures signed a letter of intent to build the gas-fired, combined-cycle merchant plant.

FERC Deals with Vertical Market Power in Mergers

In two separate cases, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the first time has approved an analytical framework for examining vertical market power concerns raised by convergence mergers of gas and electric companies. This new framework applies when market power in one sector (such as natural gas) threatens competition in another (e.g., electricity).

In the first case, the FERC on June 25 conditionally approved the disposition of jurisdictional facilities in the proposed merger of two holding companies, Enova Corp.

Off Peak

Consumers want the credit option, study says.

More than 5 percent of all recurring bills - like phone, magazine and insurance bills - are paid with a credit card (see Chart 1), according to a study conducted by Market Facts Inc. for Visa U.S.A. Yet less than one-half of 1 percent of consumers pull out their plastic to pay utility bills (see Chart 3).

Here's one likely reason: Only 8 percent of all utilities accept credit card payments (see Chart 2). Utilities may want to reconsider their offerings, however.

Midwest Compact Kills Disposal Effort Centerior Asks "Why?"

Anatomy of a nuclear waste site death Centerior Energy is mystified. Until June 26, Ohio gladly was on its way to hosting a low-level radioactive waste disposal site. Then suddenly at a three-hour meeting, 13 years of planning crashed and burned.

On that day, the Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission voted to derail development of a low-level waste disposal facility in Ohio. The commission represents the Midwest Compact, which comprises Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

DOJ Sues Utility for Threats, Bribes

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Rochester Gas & Electric Co. for allegedly threatening and attempting to bribe the University of Rochester and for its anti-competitive power supply contract with the school.

The Justice Department called the suit an "effort to loosen the stranglehold" the utility has over the university providing electricity to Rochester.

The lawsuit, filed June 24 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, claims that Rochester Gas & Electric tried to coerce the university into abandoning plans to build a cogeneration plant.

Texas May Take Low-Level Waste

The U.S. House Commerce Committee has passed HR 629 approving an agreement by Vermont, Texas and Maine to dispose of low-level nuclear waste at a site in Texas.

The bill, if approved by the full House, would create the nation's tenth low-level waste disposal compact. The proposal already has the support of the various governors and state legislators. Vermont and Maine each would pay $25 million to ship out the low-level waste, which would include materials from nuclear utilities.

The proposed site lies in West Texas, about 90 miles east of El Paso. U.S.

FERC ALJ Approves Three-Way Combo

An administrative law judge at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has recommended approval of the proposed three-way merger of WPL Holdings, IES Industries, and Interstate Power Co. to form Interstate Energy Corp.

Earlier this year, the companies and the FERC staff reached an agreement on market power mitigation. One stipulation was that the utilities had to contract for purchase of transmission capacity to interconnect the three utility systems. A portion of that capacity would be made available to other utilities on a first-come basis.