Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

California Bill Evokes Opposing Responses

Moody's Investors Service has confirmed the debt ratings of California's three largest IOUs (em Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PGE: Sr. Secured A2), San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E: Sr. Secured A1), and Southern California Edison Co. (SCE: Sr. Secured A2) (em following passage of AB 1890, the California legislature's restructuring bill.

Moody's says that legislative endorsement of stranded-cost recovery is a favorable development for utility creditors, but notes that ultimate recovery depends on regulatory approval.

LDC Sales Customers Win Allocation Dispute

After reviewing an application by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., a local distribution company (LDC), to increase its purchased-gas cost rate, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has ordered the LDC to credit its sales customers with revenues collected from the transportation class as penalties for exceeding the current 10-percent limit on delivery imbalances. The PUC explained that costs for storage capacity due to overdeliveries by transportation users should be paid for by the class of customers responsible for such costs.

Federal Drinking Water Act Seen Favorable to IOUs

According to Standard & Poor's (S&P), the recently reauthorized federal Safe Drinking Water Act should have a favorable, long-term credit impact on investor-owned water utilities.

The new act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to give states the flexibility to modify testing and monitoring requirements based on a local water system's actual health-risk exposure. The act will also form a state revolving fund program, which will assist small water systems in complying with regulations and in conducting other drinking water projects.

FCC Telco Decision Irks Georgia Regulator

Georgia Commissioner Stan Wise says he is very unhappy with the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require states to deaverage the cost of providing telephone service for companies that want to compete with the regional Bell operating carriers, such as BellSouth.

(The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit enjoined some aspects of the FCC rules on October 15. See, Courts and Commission, In Brief, p.

1996 Regulators' Forum

As electric restructuring rockets to the top of state public utility commission agendas, regulators find themselves pushed in every direction. Pushing the hardest, in most cases, are legislators, who, like commissioners, are being lobbied by utilities, industrial consumers, and sometimes, residential customers. Each party has its agenda. Some wield more clout than others.

Public Utilities Fortnightly asked eight commissioners about the demands of restructuring and about an issue particular to their state.


Comments by P.

Financial News

Imagine That!

A Stock-price Premium for DSMA rise in DSM spending (as a percentage of total expenditures) indicated

an increase in market-to-book ratio.

For electric utilities, financial and managerial attributes such as rate of return or the dividend payout ratio often exert a strong positive effect on the market-to-book (M/B) ratio (em the ratio of the company's stock price divided by book value.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Telco Interconnection Rules. Federal appeals court enjoins pricing aspect of rules published August 8 by the Federal Communications Commission to govern sale at wholesale of local exchange service elements by Bell system local carriers to new competitors (who would resell such elements to provide competitive local telephone services). Finds possibility of irreparable harm plus likelihood that Bell carriers might prevail on the merits of jurisdictional issues. No. 96-3406, Oct. 15, 1996 (8th Cir.).