Mississippi draws a line in the sand.
Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly. Contact him at email@example.com.
On December 13, the day ITC gave up on buying Entergy’s multi-state transmission network (three days after Mississippi regulators had scuttled the deal) Fortnightly spoke with Linda Blair, ITC’s executive v.p. and chief business officer:
“This was in no way a transaction we needed to do,” said Blair.
“Our pipeline is still pretty full.”
As evidence, Blair cited the Thumb Loop line in Michigan, now nearing completion, and also its “V” Plan in Kansas, as examples of ITC key grid projects still moving ahead.
“That’s a testament to our model,” she noted, “to our singular focus on transmission.”
And Blair is probably right; ITC likely can prosper without Entergy’s lines. But can we say the same for the power industry as a whole, and for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission? Because with this deal’s rejection, FERC comes out the big loser.
FERC has long promoted the Transco concept – one company owning nothing but transmission – as a useful adjunct to its vision of market-based pricing. And Justice Department’s Antitrust Division had said back in 2012 that if Entergy would spin off its lines to form a Transco, it would refrain from taking action to address allegations that Entergy had used its monopoly control to foreclose rivals from obtaining long-term firm transmission service. But the December 10 ruling by the Mississippi Public Service Commission consigns any would-be Entergy Transco to the trash heap.