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ProvGas Files for Rehearing of Affiliate Abuse Decision

ProvGas Files for Rehearing of Affiliate Abuse Decision

Stung by a hearing officer's $323,000 fine for affiliate favoritism and tariff violations, Providence Gas Co. (ProvGas) said last week the "unusual proceedings" went "substantially beyond the scope of issues originally" raised by an Aurora Natural Gas complaint. The Rhode Island utility filed a request for reconsideration, rehearing and a stay of the decision, saying the largest portion of the fine is a free ticket to marketers for winter storage and peaking services they already received.

Hearing Officer Stephen T. Scialabba ruled the utility made unauthorized changes in its unbundling pilot last winter that favored its affiliated retail marketing division. Scialabba said ProvGas treated similarly situated marketers differently and ordered the utility to balance out its treatment through refunds. But ProvGas said the hearing officer has it all wrong because the marketers in question were not similarly situated. Besides, there "can be no refunds unless and until FT-2 marketers prove actual and specific damages," ProvGas said, citing a number of Supreme Court cases. It said Aurora never did prove it was injured by the pilot program changes.

ProvGas also said it wasn't given reasonable time to contest some of the issues raised in the latter part of the case and included in the hearing officer's decision, and therefore should be afforded another opportunity to discuss the issues. "At no time prior to the issuance of the decision did the division notify PGC that it was investigating the shared use of weather service data as a violation of any particular provisions of the regulations, and the issue has thus not been subject to argument and brief," ProvGas said. "In any event, PGC believes that the decision's finding of a violation.is incorrect." Weather data is readily available and by sharing it with its affiliate it was not providing critical market information related to gas transportation, the utility said.

Some of the other fines were for violations of new commission rules on affiliate marketing practices. But ProvGas believes the fines for the misuse of corporate logos were a result of a misinterpretation of the new rules. The marketing practices in question actually are used by a number of other jurisdictional companies, who interpreted the rules just as ProvGas did, the company said. The commission rule against joint affiliate and utility company marketing "was not intended to prohibit all joint marketing."

Rocco Canonica

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