The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) decision approving the VSC-24 concrete cask for storing spent nuclear fuels. The generic approval of the technology permitted Consumers Power Co. to construct dry cask facilities at its Palisades nuclear project and begin loading spent fuel. The State of Michigan and owners of land near the Palisades plant claimed that the Atomic Energy Act required the NRC to hold hearings to consider site-specific issues.
The District of Columbia Public Service Commission (PSC) will permit Washington Gas Light Co., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to continue collecting Order 636 pipeline transition charges through its purchased-gas adjustment clause (PGA), but "questions" whether the costs should become a standard PGA element. The PSC set the matter aside for further review, voicing concern over the "potentially unchecked magnitude" of the costs absent regulatory oversight.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has overturned and remanded parts of a ruling by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that allows electric companies to impose rate surcharges to recover costs associated with demand-side management (DSM) programs, including lost revenues and incentives for program performance. The court ruled that state law limits recovery of incentives or the costs of physical facilities to base rate proceedings.
The Tennessee Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened a generic proceeding to establish a policy governing recovery of Order 636 pipeline transition costs by natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs). The PUC noted that one LDC, Nashville Gas Co., is currently recovering costs from all customer classes based on total system throughput, but has agreed to halve the charge for interruptible customers. Other LDCs use different methods to assess the costs to customers.
The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has dismissed an application by Consumers Power Co. for authority to implement its controversial "Rate K" competitive tariff for electric service. The utility had claimed that greater pricing flexibility was necessary to meet substantial competition from self-generation, new municipal utilities, and utilities outside the state, but the PSC found that due to numerous objections to the rate plan and subsequent modifications of the proposal by Consumers, the proceeding had become so complex that the docket should be closed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is preempted under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) from ordering a qualifying facility (QF) and an electric utility to renegotiate or settle on a buy out of a previously approved purchased-power agreement. The QF, Freehold Cogeneration Associates, L.P. had refused to alter its contract with Jersey Central Power & Light Co.
Florida Power Corp. has won approval for a three-year experiment to remove existing disincentives to investment in conservation programs by "decoupling" residential revenues from sales for ratemaking purposes. The mechanism permits customer surcharges and refunds if revenue levels vary from targeted levels.
The new mechanism relies on a per customer revenue target figure based on the allowed revenue and average residential customer count used in the company's last rate case.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been rebuffed yet again by the courts in its effort to relax tariff filing requirements for nondominant common carriers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit thwarted the FCC's latest attempt, rejecting proposed rules that would permit the nondominant carriers to file a range of rates rather than fixed rates tied to a schedule of charges.
The courts had earlier overturned a series of FCC rulings.
The process of determining how to implement utility competition is often cast as a struggle between two opposing camps: shareholders and ratepayers. There are, of course, two other major players, managements and regulators. The bipolar view tacitly assumes that shareholder and management interests coincide, and that regulators have customer interests at heart. Neither assumption is altogether valid. Shareholder interests deviate from management interests in important ways, just as the interests of the entrenched regulatory bureaucracy diverge from the public interest.