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Utilities, Regulators Try To Clarify Merger Terms

Clarification clearly has become a big issue in the proposed merger of Washington Water Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Resources.

Wednesday, the two utilities asked the Nevada Public Service Commission to clarify language in its Oct. 6 order approving the deal between Spokane-based WWP and Reno-based Sierra Pacific.

Their petition followed by only a day a similar request to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission made by its staff and a state assistant attorney general who represents consumers.

In both states, two issues are involved: so-called single-system pricing and splitting the benefits of a new transmission line in Nevada.

Washington officials say they are concerned that any information showing the blended cost of cheap WWP electricity and Sierra Pacific’s expensive juice might be used to deflate rate increases in Nevada.

Nevada’s commissioners demanded that information as part of their order but denied any intent to use it in rate cases.

“We aren’t out trying to grab any power from WWP customers,” said Terry Page, director of regulatory operations for the Nevada commission staff. He said the Washington merger order already provides adequate safeguards for state consumers against adverse impacts from rate orders in Nevada.

Both companies agreed to the Nevada language after pushing for stronger wording, he noted.

“The commission had a hard time getting to a final order,” Page said. “We’re not going to ask the commission to make any changes.”

He questioned the companies’ rationale for seeking relief for Washington consumers in Nevada but added that the staff of the Washington commission has the right to seek changes there.

Tom Dukich, WWP rates manager, said the utilities think the language problems can be resolved more quickly in Nevada.

“It’s a request in the truest sense,” he said, acknowledging Nevada’s sensitivity on the merger language, which was passed in a 3-2 commission vote.

Although WWP and Sierra Pacific were satisfied with the Nevada order, Dukich said he can understand the concerns of Washington regulators.

, DataTimes