A FERC options paper outlining various gas issues, whichCommission staff has been compiling since last fall, is scheduledto go to the full Commission next week – an indication FERC willtake action very soon. Commissioners are at odds, however, overwhether the gas issues will be addressed on a comprehensive basisor individually.

At the winter meeting of the National Association of RegulatoryUtility Commissioners Monday in Washington, D.C., FERC ChairmanJames J. Hoecker indicated the issues are linked and thereforerequire comprehensive evaluation. Commissioner Curt Hebert Jr. onthe other hand said the issues need to be addressed one by one.

Both Commissioners, however, see the notice of proposedrulemaking for filing requirements for utility mergers as being oneof the first issues the Commission will address. Hopefully, thatwill see the “light of day in four to six weeks,” said Hoecker.Hebert said another top issue will be the financial health of thepipeline industry. And Hoecker noted there might be room fordiversity in pipeline rate design. He does not believe pipelinesshould be subject to uniform rate structures. Other things theCommission is expected to address include capacity turnback,service reliability and pipeline certifications, Hebert said.

On the electric side, “I have virtually given up hope” onCongress addressing retail restructuring this year, said Hoecker.But he believes Congress can accomplish reform of the PublicUtility Holding Company Act and supports it. That, he said, wouldhelp “a tremendous amount.” He also would like to see Congress giveFERC more authority over reliability in the electric industry. “Weare not asking that we be made NERC. That would be a mistake.”

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