TELEPHONE BILLING PRACTICES. Citing the filed-rate doctrine, which bars deviation from published tariffs, a federal appeals court affirmed the dismissal of two class action suits against AT&T Corp. that sought damages for alleged fraud. The suite arose from AT&T's failure to disclose to its residential long-distance telecommunications customers its practice of rounding charges up to the higher full minute.
DEREGULATION OF ANY INDUSTRY OFTEN LEADS TO consolidation and merger, which frequently bolsters the involved companies' stock prices.
In the SBC/Pacific Telesis merger, intervenors argued before the California Public Utilities Commission that the change in the value of Pacific Telesis' stock was a measure of the merger's "benefits" to shareholders. They said the PUC should force the merged company to rebate half those benefits to ratepayers.
Analysts use stock market information in an "event study" to measure the economic impact of a particular event.
PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION. Chief Judge D. Brock Hornby of the U.S. District Court in Maine, decided to allow Portland Natural Gas Transmission System access to electric transmission corridors owned by Central Maine Power Co. The access will be used to install a natural gas pipeline.
Portland received FERC approval Sept. 24 for installing and operating a 292-mile, $302-million interstate pipeline. CMP owns about 70 miles of the electric transmission corridor. The preliminary injunction, issued April 10, gives Portland access to property on CMP-owned transmission corridors.
ENERGY SUPPORT SERVICES. An Illinois appeals court affirmed a 1997 decision by the state commission that had denied authority to Commonwealth Edison to offer "energy support services," such as design, engineering, construction, analysis and management of electrical power equipment and energy systems. The court made this decision despite the utility's argument that no evidence existed to support the commission's finding that ComEd enjoyed a monopolist's advantage over competitors.
Editor's Note: It was an awkward spot. Power marketers wanted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to block the "tagging" rules imposed by the North American Reliability Council. Could the FERC do that? Having stalled for more than six months, with no sign of action, the Commission surprised the federal energy bar when, on April 7, with no mention on the agenda (there could be no agenda, since there was no meeting), it surreptitiously released its opinion. Also caught unawares, the Fortnightly asked Jeffrey Watkiss, an attorney in the case, to explain what it all means.
TELCO UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND. Reversing an appeals court, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Kansas Corporation Commission that had required wireless telecommunications carriers to contribute to the state's universal service fund. It also affirmed a KCC ruling setting the initial amount of the fund in a roundabout way based on equalizing inter- and intrastate long-distance rates.
The KCC order (issued Dec. 27, 1996) had slashed intrastate toll rates by $111 million over three years. It then cut access charges by an equal amount to offset the loss to toll carriers.
NITROGEN-OXIDE EMISSION LIMITS. Denying an appeal by electric utilities and industry groups against rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emission limits for nitrogen oxides at certain electric utility boilers, a federal appeals court has ruled that EPA properly interpreted the Clean Air Act. The act allows EPA to set NOx limits for certain electric utility boilers if it could show that more effective technology for low-NOx burners was available, the court said.
EARLIER IN THIS DECADE, FERC CHAIRMAN MARTIN ALLDAY delivered his famous quote: "Everybody is somebody's native load customer."
Today, that truism has fallen under attack. It could go out the window if power marketers get their wish. One group of marketers has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to open a new rulemaking on electric system reliability. This group proposes to end the notion of transmission responding to load.
The 1998 Gas Industry Executives Forum Mapping the Universe of Natural Gas: Closed, Shrinking or Expanding?
ARE NATURAL GAS UTILITIES DIFFERENT FROM THEIR ELECtric counterparts? Now that customer choice has become available in a few spots on the East and West coasts, can we expect some of the same opportunities to open up for gas consumers? Or are the industries incomparable, without lessons to learn from each other?
AMERICANS ARE fascinated with lists. There are lists of just about anything you can name, from the Fortune 500 to baseball batting averages. There's even a book of lists. We especially like to rank "top tens," like the 10 best cities to live in or the 10 worst school districts in America. Television has popularized these lists.