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South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Meeting
Tuesday, April 12, 2005 at 10:30 A.M.
State Capitol Building, Room 412
Pierre, South Dakota
MINUTES OF THE COMMISSION MEETING
Chairman Gary Hanson called the meeting to order. Also present were Vice Chairman Bob Sahr; Commissioner Dustin Johnson; Executive Director Pamela Bonrud; Deputy Executive Director Heather Forney; Commission Advisor Greg Rislov; Commission Attorneys John Smith and Rolayne Ailts Wiest; Staff Attorney Karen Cremer; Staff Analysts Harlan Best, Dave Jacobson, Steve Wegman, Michele Farris, Jim Mehlhaff and Keith Senger; Cheri Wittler, Court Reporter; and Administrative Secretary Tina Douglas.
Also present were Rich Coit, South Dakota Telecommunication Association; David Gerdes, May, Adam, Gerdes, and Thompson, representing Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Xcel Energy; Talbot Wieczorek, Gunderson, Palmer, Goodsell & Nelson, representing RCC Minnesota, Inc.; David LaFuria, representing RCC Minnesota, Inc.; Darla Rogers, Riter, Rogers, Wattier & Brown representing various ILEC's.
Joining the meeting by telephone were Pat Mastel, Prairie Wave; Colleen Sevold, Melissa Thompson, and Carol Pohrkenyper, Qwest Corporation; Jeff Decker, NorthWestern Corporation; Malia Tasi and Stan Efferding, VCI Company; Brad Schardin, Southeastern Electric Cooperative; Beth Kohler, Rural Cellular Corporation; Anne Hansen and Michelle Swanson, Xcel Energy; and Pam Harrington, RC Communications.
1. Approval of the Minutes of the Commission Meeting Held on March 8, 2005. (Staff: Tina Douglas.)
Commissioner Sahr moved to approve the Minutes of the Commission Meeting held on March 8, 2005. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
1. Status Report on Consumer Utility Inquiries and Complaints Received by the Commission. (Consumer Affairs: Jim Mehlhaff)
Jim Mehlhaff reported that the Commission had received a total of 498 consumer contacts during 2005. Since the last report was prepared for the March 8, 2005, Commission meeting, 201 of these contacts had been received; 68 contacts involved telecommunications services; 29 contacts involved electricity issues; 8 contacts involved natural gas issues; 16 contacts involved gas and electric services; 35 contacts involved cellular phone issues; 12 contacts involved the Do Not Call registry; and 33 contacts involved miscellaneous services not regulated by the PUC. In 2004, 2071 of the 2370 complaints registered have been resolved informally and in 2005, 392 of the 498 complaints registered have been resolved informally
1. EL04-015 In the Matter of the Petition of Northern States Power Company d/b/a Xcel Energy for Approval to Include Certain Renewable Energy Development Fund Costs in the Electric Fuel Clause Adjustment. (Staff Analyst: Steve Wegman, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)
Jim Wilcox, Xcel Energy stated that Xcel Energy is asking for limited approval to include Renewable Development Fund payments directed to projects resulting in new renewable energy production, and associated administrative costs, allocated to South Dakota, in a revised Fuel Clause Rider Tariff for purposes of cost recovery from South Dakota customers. Renewable Development Fund payments by Xcel are required by an Act passed by the Minnesota Legislature in exchange for enabling Xcel to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant at Red Wing, Minnesota. The limited approval would be for 2004, 2005, and 2006. He also stated that under the Stipulation, Xcel would develop 50 megawatts of wind power in South Dakota. Steve Wegman stated that staff is not in unanimous agreement with the Stipulation and that Xcel would have to refund the monies if the wind power is not developed. He also stated this kind of refund is not usually put in the fuel clause adjustment. This request was denied in North Dakota and in Minnesota the refund is in not in the fuel clause adjustment but is a separate rider.
Commissioner Johnson moved to deny the Petition for Approval of Inclusion of Certain Renewable Development Fund Costs in its Fuel Clause because the fuel clause is not an appropriate vehicle to pass these costs onto ratepayers. SDCL 49-34A-25 makes it clear that the fuel clause is intended to pass along those costs directly related to changes in the wholesale rates for delivered energy, the delivered cost of fuel used in generation, ad valorem taxes, or for fuel incentives, and instead directed Xcel to accumulate these costs in a separate account, by vintage, from 2004 forward, including carrying charges based upon the rate of return last allowed by this Commission, for our future consideration in the form a potentially recoverable regulatory asset. Also, the Commission's consideration of recovery of these costs shall take place within Xcel's next general filing for a rate change. Chairman Hanson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
2. EL05-005 In the Matter of the Joint Request for an Electric Service Rights Exception between Central Electric Cooperative, Inc. and the City of Plankinton. (Staff Analyst: Michele Farris, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)
Michele Farris stated that Central Electric Cooperative and the City of Plankinton filed a joint Service Rights Exception Agreement. Central Electric is seeking approval to provide service to an outdoor sign located within Lot D of F & S Noble's First Addition, a subdivision of the unplatted portion of the North ½ of the SE ¼ of section 22, and the unplatted portion of the SE ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 22, all lying east of Main Street of the city of Plankinton, in Township 103 North, Range 64 West of the 5th Pm Aurora County, South Dakota. The owners of the sign are in agreement with the request. Both parties believe this exchange will avoid unnecessary duplication of facilities and Central electric would provide adequate electric service to the sign and the arrangement would promote the efficient and economical use and development of their respective electric systems. Ms. Farris stated that the Service Rights Exception is in the public interest and recommended the Commission approve the request for an Electric Service Territory exception.
Commissioner Sahr moved to approve the Electric Service Rights Exception in EL05- 005. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3- 0.
Dave Jacobson stated that NorthWestern Corporation requested that this docket be deferred.
Chairman Hanson moved to defer EL05-006. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
1. EL05-004 In the Matter of the Joint Request for an Electric Service Rights Exception between Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Inc. and MidAmerican Energy Company. (Staff Analyst: Michele Farris, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)
Brad Schardin, Southeastern Electric Cooperative stated that Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SEC) is requesting a service rights exception. A SEC customer has requested three-phase electric service for irrigating approximately 65 acres of land located in the NW 1/4 of Section 24, Range 48 West, Township 96 North in Lincoln County, South Dakota. In order for SEC to provide service it would require a line extension of over three miles with a sizeable aid to construction for a seasonal load. Since SEC is not able to provide three-phase electric service to this site without a sizeable aid to construction SEC is willing to allow MidAmerican Energy to provide electric service to this site. Michele Farris stated that the Service Rights Exception is in the public interest and recommended the Commission approve the request for an Electric Service Rights Exception.
Commissioner Sahr moved to approve the Electric Service Rights Exception in EL05- 004. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3- 0.
Dave Jacobson recommended that the Commission suspend the imposition of the tariff for 90 days beyond April 23, 2005, and assess a filing fee for actual expenses not to exceed 100,000.00. Dave Gerdes, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (MDU) has no objection to staff's recommendations.
Commissioner Johnson moved to suspend the tariff 90 days beyond April 23, 2005, and assess a filing fee not to exceed $100,000.00 in NG05-002. Commissioner Sahr seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
1. TC04-260 In the Matter of the Application of Budget Phone, Inc. for a Certificate of Authority to Provide Interexchange Telecommunications Services and Local Exchange Services in South Dakota. (Staff Analyst: Keith Senger, Staff Attorney: Sara Greff)
Keith Senger stated that on December 14, 2004, Budget Phone Inc. filed an application for a Certificate of Authority to provide local exchange telecommunications services in Qwest's service territory and interexchange telecommunications services throughout South Dakota. The Applicant has requested a waiver from filing current financial statement as required by ARSD 20:10:24:02(8) and 20:10:32:03(11). The applicant has provided a $25,000 bond. Mr. Senger recommended the Commission grant the requested waivers and issue Budget Phone Inc. local exchange and interexchange authority subject to rural safeguards and with a continuing bond requirement.
Chairman Hanson moved to grant the waiver of ARSD 20:10:24:02(8) and 20:10:32:03(11) and grant Budget Phone, Inc.'s Certificate of Authority, subject to rural safeguards, and subject to a continuous $25,000.00 surety bond. Commissioner Sahr seconded and Commissioner Johnson concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
2. TC05-048 In the Matter of the Filing for Approval of an Amendment to an Interconnection Agreement between Qwest Corporation and McLeodUSA Telecommunications Services, Inc. (Staff Attorney: Sara Greff)
Karen Cremer stated that the Amendment has been properly filed, has been properly executed and does not appear to contain discriminatory provisions, no comments were filed, and recommended approval of the Amendment.
Commissioner Sahr moved to approve the Amendment in TC05-048. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
3. In the Matter of Approving Agreements in TC05-049 and TC05-050
Karen Cremer stated that Lightyear Network Solutions, LLC does not have a Certificate of Authority for South Dakota and recommended that the Agreement be denied.
Commissioner Johnson moved to deny the Agreement in TC05-049. Commissioner Sahr seconded and Chairman Hanson concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
Karen Cremer asked that this docket be deferred.
Chairman Hanson moved to defer TC05-050. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
4. Review of Implementation of FCC Requirements for Lifeline and Link-Up Programs and the Development of Additional Outreach Efforts (Staff Attorney: Rolayne Wiest)
Rolayne Wiest stated that the Commission Staff is requesting that the Commission open a docket or conduct some other type of proceeding regarding the Lifeline and Link-Up programs. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revised its Lifeline and Link-Up programs and added new eligibility requirements as well as certification and verification procedures. See In the Matter of Lifeline and Link-Up, WC Docket No. 03, 109, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (rel. April 29, 2004). Based on these revisions, Staff believes it would be beneficial for the Commission to review how Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) are implementing these new requirements. In addition, Staff believes that the Commission should review how ETCs are advertising the availability of these programs to their customers and whether the Commission could provide additional assistance in outreach efforts. Rich Coit, South Dakota Telecommunications Association agreed with Ms. Wiest that it would be a good idea to open a docket and review the certification and verification procedures. Carol Pohrkenyper, Qwest Corporation stated that it has implemented the FCC requirements and will be sending a letter to a sampling of customers before June 22, 2005. Ms. Wiest recommended opening a docket and reviewing the certification and verification procedures of the companies with ETC status FCC.
Chairman Hanson moved to open a docket and to have the Commission review how the ETCs are implementing the new FCC requirements and assist in outreach efforts. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
7. Qwest Performance Assurance Plan Audit (Staff Analyst: Harlan Best, Staff Attorney: Rolayne Wiest)
Rolayne Wiest stated that the Commission has recently received an email from the chairman of the Regional Oversight Committee, Commissioner Tony Clark of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, inquiring whether the South Dakota Commission will formally join the regional collaborative to handle the auditing of the Qwest Performance Assurance plans that were adopted by the Qwest states. Commissioner Clark requested a response by April 12, 2005. Previously, 13 of the 14 Qwest states had indicated an interest in joining a collaborative and jointly paying for the cost of the audit. Ms. Wiest recommended joining the first round of the regional collaborative regarding the auditing of the Qwest Performance Assurance plans which would keep the costs down for the Public Utilities Commission and later on decide if the Commission would like to continue in any possible future audits.
Chairman Hanson moved to open a docket and to have the Commission join the regional collaborative of the auditing of the Qwest Performance Assurance plans. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
Chairman Hanson moved to defer TC04-225. Commissioner Johnson seconded and Commissioner Sahr concurred. Motion passed 3-0.
7. TC03-193 In the Matter of the Filing by RCC Minnesota, Inc. and Wireless Alliance, L.L.C. d/b/a Unicel for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier. (Staff Analyst: Harlan Best, Staff Attorney: John Smith)