PA PUC Requested by Statutory Advocates and Two NGDCs to Examine The Practice of Natural Gas Flexible Pricing or Negotiated Discount Rates

Historically the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has permitted natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) to use flexible pricing or “flex” contract rates to attract or retain large customers who have other energy alternatives.  The reasoning has been that “half a loaf is better than none,” and that such revenues, which cover and exceed marginal cost, contribute positively to overall cost of service.  The result is a benefit to the large customer, the utility, and all customers generally. Moreover, in terms of retaining a customer, the argument in favor of the status quo is that other ratepayers benefit as they do not bear the revenue burden of stranded investment or a smaller revenue pot over which to apply costs.  The NGDCs have generally been able to recover from other ratepayers the difference between the “flex” rate and what would have otherwise been charged under an ordinary general tariff rate.

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PUC Approves Withdrawal of Laser Northeast Gathering Co.’s Application for Public Utility Status

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) granted Laser Northeast Gathering Co.’s (“Laser”) petition to withdrawal its application to become a public utility.

By a 3-2 vote adopting  a motion by PUC Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr., the PUC approved Laser’s petition to withdraw its application and denied the request of certain parties to rescind its prior Orders in the case. PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer and Commissioner James H. Cawley dissented not as to granting withdrawal but as to the issue of whether the prior Orders should be rescinded.

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PA PUC ENTERS WRITTEN DECISION IN HMS’LASER MARCELLUS PIPELINE APPLICATION CASE

On June 4, 2011, the PUC reduced its majority motion to a written order and has remanded the case to an Administrative Law Judge for a ruling on whether the service and terms of the partial settlement are in the public interest.  The Order essentially follows Commissioner Wayne E. Gardner’s Motion, which was joined by Chairman Robert F. Powelson and Vice-Chairman John F. Coleman, Jr. at the May 19, 2011 public meeting.  It accepted the position of Laser and other parties, such as the PUC’s Office of Trial Staff, that the service proposed by Laser will be public utility service because it will be open to any member of the public requiring service to the extent of capacity.

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Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Bills Driven by Marcellus Shale Development In PA Move Forward

There are two natural gas pipeline safety bills pending before the Pennsylvania General Assembly: House Bill 344 and Senate Bill 325.  Each was met with overwhelming approval in the chamber in which it was proposed, and the passage of either would result in additional safety regulation of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

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