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Industry News

CPUC Delays Action on Open Access

LCG, Sept. 7, 2001--The California Public Utilities Commission, having earlier deciding not to vote yesterday on how revenues from electricity users would be used to service the state's pending $12.5 billion bond issue, decided yesterday not to tackle another issue seen as vital to marketing the bonds.

The CPUC yesterday delayed repeal of a deregulation law that gives Californians the right to choose their electricity supplier.

Repeal of the so-called "open access" portion of the 1966 restructuring law is seen as necessary to prevent a growing number of large electricity customers from avoiding their share of the cost of repaying the state for power purchases made on behalf of its cash-strapped utilities.

"I think we are being negligent in failing to respond to this threat," said PUC Commissioner Carl Wood. "What we are faced with, with the likelihood of direct access continuing, is that the cost will be dumped on small businesses and consumers."

The CPUC inaction on these issues threatens an October 31 deadline by which the state would like to market the bonds. The state had originally intended to market the bonds in May, and Gov. Gray Davis had "guaranteed" that money from the bonds would repay the state treasury by June 30 for money used to buy power.

The October 31 deadline is important because it is also the deadline when interest on a $4.3 billion bridge loan taken in anticipation of the bond issue jumps from 4.14 percent to 7 percent. The difference could cost the state $270,000 a day in added interest.

The CPUC said it would vote next Thursday on open access, along with a number of other proposals that could affect electricity bills.

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