The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended, until June 8, 2016, the time for implementing the FCC’s interpretation of the term “former reservations in Oklahoma,” for purposes of its Lifeline rules. TMI Briefing Service subscribers see Briefing dated 7/1/15. To provide impacted parties additional certainty regarding the boundaries of the “former reservations in Oklahoma,” the FCC also released a digital shapefile to assist providers in their implementation efforts. The Bureau noted that, as contemplated by the Order, it had consulted with various Tribal entities concerning the redefinition and had shared the map with them. During the consultation process, the Cherokee Nation expressed concerns regarding the Cherokee Outlet’s status as a “former reservation in Oklahoma.” The Bureau said that, in addition to giving Lifeline providers time to provide consumers with adequate advance notice of the changes in eligibility, the extended implementation date would give the FCC an opportunity to “appropriately evaluate and respond to the concerns that were raised during the consultation process.” As such, the digital shapefile release includes a second map that highlights the boundaries of the Cherokee Outlet that the Cherokee Nation contends should remain as Tribal lands for the Lifeline and Link Up programs.
In response to the Bureau’s Order, Commissioner Pai issued a Statement on what he called a “Decision to Allow Continued Abuse of the Lifeline Program.”
Click here to review the DRAFT Resolutions to be considered at the National Association Of Regulatory Utility Commissioners winter meetings in Washington, D.C. February 14-17, 2016. Among the issues to be discussed are: reform of the Lifeline program (reformed federal Lifeline Coordinated Enrollment/De-enrollment process); IP technology transitions which preserve the fundamental feature of legacy services (such as connection quality, 9-1-1 and NG-911 access, competitive interconnection, interoperability, and affordability, and services for those with disabilities); and streamlined access to rights of way on federal lands to accelerate broadband deployment. There is also a DRAFT resolution supporting advanced electric transmission technology. It encourages State PUCs to support utility efforts to: 1) investigate and consider new advanced transmission technologies when replacing aged transmission infrastructure; 2) evaluate new transmission technologies to determine if they can cost effectively ensure the continued reliable delivery of electricity while providing greater capacity and enhanced efficiency; and 3) consider the ability of these technologies to reduce environmental and visual impacts on communities.
The PSC has opened a docket to collect data on the ways it can promote and advance the reliability of critical underground facilities. The PSC said it has noticed a pattern in recent months involving service interruptions due to cable cuts, and it is not sure whether the interruptions were caused by action/lack of action by a utility or a contractor/locator. Interested parties are asked to file responses to a list of questions by March 9, 2016. The questions cover areas such as: (1) the most significant factors leading to underground facility service interruptions; (2) statistical information about recent outages and their root causes; (3) how often outages are caused by inaccurate maps, training issues with contractors or locators, and excavation outside of flagged or marked areas; (4) availability of records; and (5) whether any enforcement actions were taken against carriers or contractors.
The PRC has appointed a Hearing Examiner to conduct its evaluation of CenturyLink’s request to consolidate the Belen, Bernalillo, Estancia, Laguna-Acoma, Los Lunas, Moriarty, Mountainair, Pena Blanca, and Tijeras rate centers into the Albuquerque Rate Center. CenturyLink states that combining the rate centers it will serve the public interest by facilitating number portability, allow for a more efficient use of the number blocks within the Number Plan Area (NPA), and might defer costs of the NPA if a split or overlay occurred. The Commission agreed with staff that it should examine the many implications of CenturyLink’s request and provide interested persons the opportunity to participate in the proceeding. The Commission authorized the Hearing Examiner in the case to receive testimony and conduct hearings and to submit a Recommended Decision for Commission approval. TMI Briefing Service subscribers, watch for a Briefing when the Hearing Examiner issues an order with further details.
The National Association Of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President issued a press release in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 745, a controversial rule that pays demand response the same locational marginal price that generators are paid in the settlement of organized wholesale markets. The Court’s order is a reversal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which had ruled that demand response is fundamentally a retail transaction exclusively subject to the jurisdiction of state regulators. NARUC’s President Travis Kavulla of Montana released the following statement:
“The Supreme Court’s decision reiterates that retail rate regulation of electricity is the exclusive province of states. Yet it also allows a federal regulator to establish compensation for retail consumers who offer demand reductions as a substitute for generators’ production in the wholesale electricity markets. The Court’s decision appears to stand for the proposition that energy conservation measures can be valued in both a retail context and, in different circumstances, a wholesale context. … As the court observes, the respective province of FERC and State utility commissions ‘generates a steady flow of jurisdictional disputes because—in point of fact if not of law—the wholesale and retail markets in electricity are inextricably linked.”
Questions on demand response and related topics are on the agenda for the NARUC annual Winter Committee Meetings in Washington, D.C.