Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1996

Pipelines: Beware of Riptides

Gas restructuring didn't end with Order 636, it just outran the regulators. Now the rules come from the downstream dealmakers.

Gas restructuring didn't end with Order 636, it just outran the regulators. Now the rules come from the downstream dealmakers.

D'Amato Sends PUHCA Bill to Mark Up

"This is not an intent to strip away consumer protection," Sen. Alfonse M.

D'Amato (R-NY) told

a Senate panel about S. 1317, a bipartisan bill to repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA).

D'Amato, chair of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, received nods from federal and state regulators at the June 6 hearing, although each voiced reservations. Three utility chiefs spoke in favor of the legislation.

Consumer advocates took the opposite tack.

Off Peak

A few utility executives claim to sleep untroubled by the future of their companies. Most, however, admit to some tossing and turning engendered by concern over competition and the complacency of coworkers.

What, if anything, are they doing about it?

A survey of 117 PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY subscribers reveals that American utility executives are asking themselves all the tough questions about the future of their operations. It also reveals a widespread sense of urgency in the search for answers.

R&D for a Competitive Power Industry

R & D for

a Competitive Power Industry

The secret lies in gaining exclusive-use rights to protect your product or process from your competitors.

The electric utility industry is inherently a high-technology business. Those who ignore this fact for long will fall behind (em not only in using the technology, but also in contending against their higher-tech competitors.

FERC to Standardize Gas Practices

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a proposed rule to standardize the business practices of open-access

natural gas pipelines (Docket No. RM96-1-000). The rule would adopt the 140 standards recently filed by the Gas Industry Standards Board (GISB).

The proposal calls for a standard Internet connection between pipelines and customers, to eliminate the disparity in procedures and interfaces that have caused confusion to date.

Who's Covered, Who Isn't

The term "parachute payment" includes "any payment in the nature of compensation to . . . a disqualified individual . . .

For purposes of this section, an individual is a disqualified individual . . . if . . . the individual is an employee or independent contractor of the corporation and is

a) A shareholder [More than $1 million or one percent of fair market value]

b) An officer, or

c) A highly compensated individual

. . . .

The term 'officer' implies continuity of service. ...

Tax Corner

Many executives of publicly held utility corporations have written severance agreements to protect them in the event of a change in control. However, these severance packages remain vulnerable to attack by acquirers.

Two separate threats are emerging. One involves a direct attack on drafting flaws in the plan documents. The other, more subtle, threat lies in the impact and interpretation of the special "Golden Parachute" rules under the Internal Revenue Code. This second threat warrants attention.


At the end of May, Consumers Power Co. issued a press release that caught my eye. In four short paragraphs, the company said it had filed an application with the state public service commission (PSC) seeking approval of a private power-supply contract with James River Corp. Consumers Power ranks James River as its 23rd largest industrial electric customer.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Offsystem Gas Sales. Florida permits new LDC tariff for sales to offsystem customers. LDC recovers all variable costs, including $100 administrative charge per transaction; splits nongas charges with firm customers, crediting administrative charges to PGA rate. Docket No. 960185-GU, PSC-96-0482-FOF-GU, Apr. 5, 1996 (Fl.P.S.C.).

Master Metering.


Marc W. Chupka, former special assistant to Energy Secretary Hazel R. O'Leary, has been promoted to acting assistant secretary for policy. He replaces Dan Reicher, now O'Leary's chief of staff. Melanie A. Kenderline was appointed deputy assistant secretary for House liaison in the office of congressional, public, and intergovernmental affairs.

MidCon Corp.'s president and CEO, John F. Riordan, was elected chair of the Gas Research Institute, succeeding Thomas L. Fisher of Northern Illinois Gas Co.