RAPA Recent Cases (alphabetical)
Alaska Power Company (APC), Alaska Telephone Company (ATC) and AT&T Alaska
RCA Dockets U-12-091/U-12-092/U-12-116 (Electric and Telecommunications). Utility Profile.
These dockets involve requests by APC, ATC, and AT&T Alaska to discontinue providing local telephone service to Chisana and Healy Lake, and for APC to discontinue providing electric service to Healy Lake. These dockets involve questions of first impression, including the standards the Commission should use in evaluating utility service abandonment requests. The utilities claim dwindling populations in both communities and the high cost of providing service justify service abandonment. The AG has opposed each utility's service abandonment request based on the facts and law presented. A final Commission decision is due by September 15, 2013.
RCA Docket No. U-10-58 (Steam Heat). Utility Profile.
On August 4, 2010, Aurora Energy, LLC requested approval for exemption of its steam heat utility service from economic regulation. The AG's expert witness testified that the utility's commitment to a market-based (fuel oil) rate cap satisfied concerns about protecting ratepayers from unreasonable pricing if steam heat was deregulated and merged with hot water heat rates. The Commission issued its decision on April 29, 2011 denying Aurora's petition for exemption from economic regulation and denying its request to merge its steam heat customers with its hot water customers. The Commission decision indicated that the utility failed to provide clear and convincing evidence in support of its petition. On June 14, 2011, the Commission stated it would reconsider its decision. A revised decision on the merits is pending.
Chugach Electric Association (Chugach)
RCA Docket U-13-007 (Electric). Utility profile.
This rate case was filed in December 2012. Chugach originally requested a 22% base rate increase for residential consumers, and higher rate increase for each of Chugach's wholesale customers (a 28% base rate increase for Homer Electric Association; a 42% base rate increase for Matanuska Electric Association; and a 32% base rate increase for the City of Seward). The size of Chugach's rate increase for residential consumers was subsequently reduced to a 19% increase as a result of a Commission decision agreeing with an AG request to reject Chugach's inclusion of $1.85 million in storm damages from consideration. Chugach's remaining claims for rate relief are being investigated and a hearing is scheduled to begin December 6, 2013.
RCA Docket U-12-147 (Electric – Gas Sales Agreement).
The Commission opened this docket to investigate a proposed Chugach gas supply agreement (GSA) with Hilcorp Alaska, LLC. Under this GSA, gas supplied to Chugach (3 Bcf per year in 2013 and 2014) will be used to generate economy energy power sales to Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) beginning in April 2013 for a 2 year term, with a one-year option for additional gas in 2015 (2.7 Bcf). The Commission requested the AG participate in the docket and discovery produced showed GVEA should realize approximately $32 million per year in cost savings by purchasing power from Chugach rather than self-generating power using GVEA's other higher cost fuel supplies. GVEA's consumers will be the direct beneficiaries of these cost savings. Chugach's ratepayers and wholesale customers will incur no costs and only receive benefits in the form of reduced rates and increased margins as a result of the Commission's GSA approval. A settlement subsequently reached also ensures gas supplied to GVEA by Chugach under this GSA would be subject to a 2009 Gas Emergency Agreement governing gas prioritization and curtailment among Cook Inlet utilities in emergency situations (typically extreme cold snaps). The Commission accepted the settlement and approved the GSA on March 1, 2013.
Cordova Wireless Communications, Inc. (CWC)
RCA Docket U-12-135 (Telecommunications). Utility profile.
CWC provides cellphone service in Cordova and recently expanded its wireless service to Yakutat, which previously lacked a cellphone provider. On October 1, 2012, CWC filed an Commission application seeking to be designated as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) and for a service area redefinition at Yakutat. Each of these designations is a required prerequisite for CWC to obtain federal funding support for its wireless service. The Commission requested the AG's participation in this docket. GCI is a participant in the docket and is opposing CWC's request. Trial is scheduled to begin on July 22, 2013.
Fairbanks Natural Gas (FNG).
RCA Docket U-12-095 (Gas). Utility profile.
FNG provides natural gas for space heat to approximately 1100 consumers in Fairbanks. FNG's gas supply is currently shipped by truck as LNG from a small liquefaction plant it owns near Point MacKenzie. After transport to Fairbanks, the LNG is regassified for distribution to FNG's customers.
The rates FNG charges customers had not been regulated by the RCA since 2003, and the this docket was opened to evaluate whether FNG's rates should remain unregulated. After the AG filed testimony recommending that FNG's exemption from rate regulation be eliminated, a settlement was reached. Under the agreement, which was approved by the Commission on January 31, 2013, FNG agreed to a Commission-imposed rate cap, barring it from raising its rates beyond current levels for all firm customers until new rates are established by the Commission in a rate case to be filed in 2014.
Golden Heart Utilities (GHU)/College Utilities Corp. (CUC)
RCA Docket Nos. U-11-77/78 (Water and Sewer). Utility profile.
On June 17, 2011, GHU/CUC filed a request to increase rates by 10.3% for its water service and by 14.3% for its wastewater service. The AG intervened, investigated the GHU/CUC rate increase request and recommended reductions. Before trial, the parties reached a settlement on all issues which was accepted by the Commission. Under the settlement, GHU/CUC's water utilities rate increase request was reduced by $208,707, and GHU/CUC's wastewater rate increase request was reduced by $317,383. This settlement resulted in an $111,036 refund to consumers which were issued after October 2012.
Home Water, LLC (Home Water)
RCA Docket No. U-12-121 (Water). Utility Profile.
Home Water provides water utility service to five subdivisions in the Mat-Su Valley. On June 29, 2012, Home Water filed a request to increase water rates charged in four of these subdivisions: Majestic Hills subdivision by 7.14%, Meadow Brook subdivision by 7.87%, Northern Lights Terrace subdivision by 7.14%, and Birch Run subdivision by 7.14%. The AG entered an appearance and after conducting an investigation filed testimony agreeing the Birch Run and Northern Lights Terrace subdivision rate increase requests were reasonable, but that the Meadow Brook and Majestic Hills subdivision rate increase requests were unjustified and that refunds should be ordered. In April 2013, the parties entered into an agreement adopting the AG's recommendations. Under this agreement, if it is accepted by the Commission, Home Water will be required to issue consumers in the Meadow Brook and Majestic Hills subdivisions refunds of the additional rate increases collected since August 15, 2012.
Kenai Nikiski Pipeline (KNPL).
RCA Docket P-11-14 (Natural Gas Pipeline). Utility Profile.
This case originated as a complaint filed on August 12, 2011 by ENSTAR and CINGSA (Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska). The complaint alleged KNPL's natural gas transportation rates (approximately $0.20/Mcf) were excessive, and the rate should be approximately $0.05/Mcf instead.
The AG elected to participate in the proceeding and joined ENSTAR's complaint because pipeline transportation rates paid by utilities to transport gas for utility use are ultimately passed through to consumers. A number of other utilities and shippers with commercial interests in lower pipeline tariff rates also intervened in the docket (Chugach Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, among others). This dispute was mediated, settled, and the settlement was accepted by the Commission on November 9, 2012. The settlement resulted in transportation rates for the first three quarters of 2012 at between 6.65 and 6.12 cents per Mcf, rather than 20 cents/Mcf. The settlement resulted in refunds to which were made on December 6, 2012. ENSTAR received a refund of $523,154. CINGSA's refund was $159,545. Chugach's refund was $947,120. ConocoPhillips' refund was $548,623. Other KNPL shippers received a combined refund of $1,246,957 plus interest. Utility refunds were passed through to consumers in the form of reduced rates.
Lausen's Dependable Disposal Inc (LDDI).
RCA Docket U-12-014 (Refuse). Utility Profile.
This rate case was filed in January 13, 2012. LDDI, which provides refuse service in the Denali Borough and Nenana Valley, requested a 31.43% rate increase. The AG intervened, investigated LDDI's filings, and recommended that LDDI's rate increase be reduced to 12.76%. A settlement was subsequently negotiated which limited LDDI's rate increase to 15.01%. This settlement was accepted by the Commission on February 21, 2013 which resulted in a $40,672 refund to consumers.
McGrath Light & Power Company (MLPC).
RCA Docket U-12-140 (Electric). Utility Profile.
On September 14, 2012, MLPC filed a request to increase its rates by 48.7%. The AG is participating in this docket at the Commission's request, and an investigation is ongoing. This is the Commission's first review of MLPC's utility rates in over twenty–five years. A hearing is scheduled for August 29, 2013 to evaluate MLPC's rate requests.
Municipal Light & Power (ML&P).
RCA Docket U-12-149 (Electric). Utility Profile.
This docket was opened by the Commission to evaluate a new ML&P depreciation study. Utilities are required to file depreciation studies periodically to evaluate the lifespan of utility plant assets and the method by which these plant assets depreciate over time. Established depreciation rates set are then used in rate cases as a part of the process in setting consumer rates. AG testimony filed in this docket on April 15, 2013 recommends changes in ML&P's depreciation methodology which, if accepted by the Commission, will reduce ML&P's annual depreciation expense by approximately $1.6 million. Trial is scheduled for September 2013.
RCA Docket U-13-006 (Electric).
This rate case was filed in December 2012. ML&P is seeking a 9.72% rate increase. The Commission requested AG participation in the docket on January 31, 2012, and ML&P's filings are being investigated. A hearing to evaluate ML&P's rate relief request is scheduled to begin November 18, 2013.
Nikishka Bay Utilities, Inc. (NBBI).
RCA Docket U-13-005 (Water). Utility Profile.
NBBI provides water utility service in certain subdivisions off the Kenai Spur Highway. On December 4, 2012, NBBI filed a request to increase utility rates by 19.5%. The Commission requested AG participation in the docket on January 24, 2013, and NBBI's rate filings are being investigated. A hearing to evaluate NBBI's rate increase request is scheduled to begin October 16, 2013.
TDX North Slope Generating, Inc. (TNSG).
RCA Docket U-12-075 (Electric). Utility Profile.
TNSG provides electric utility service in Deadhorse. On April 16, 2012, TNSG filed a request for a 22.67% rate increase. The Commission requested the AG participate in the docket, and following an investigation filed testimony recommending that TNSG's rate increase be limited to 18.11%. A settlement was subsequently negotiated before trial with the parties agreeing that TSNG's rate increase should be limited to 19.66%. The Commission accepted the stipulation on April 3, 2013. Refunds will be due under the settlement, which will be quantified after the Commission evaluates a refund plan TNSG filed on May 3, 2013.