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PUCO Denies, As Unneeded, Extension Of Current Columbia Gas Merchant Function Plan Sought By Retail Suppliers

November 7, 2018

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Copyright 2010-17
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Note: This story was first published the evening of Nov. 7 with an alert to our email subscribers

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has denied a motion filed by various parties, including retail suppliers, that had requested from PUCO an extension through December 31, 2018, of the Amended Stipulation and Recommendation filed in Case No. 12-2637-GA-EXM, relating to Columbia's merchant function and related exemptions, on November 27, 2012, as approved by the Commission in an Opinion and Order dated January 9, 2013, and as further modified by its Entry on Rehearing dated March 20, 2013.

Seeking the extension were Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc., Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Retail Energy Supply Association, Interstate Gas Supply, Inc., Dominion Energy Solutions, Inc., Direct Energy Services, LLC, Direct Energy Business, LLC, Stand Energy Corporation and Volunteer Energy Services, Inc. (collectively, the Movants)

The Movants sought the extension because they are currently negotiating the possible next steps to follow Columbia’s above-referenced exemption proceedings.

The Amended Stipulation had provided that it, "shall be for a five-year term, commencing on April 1, 2013, and ending on March 31, 2018."

In their joint motion, the Movants had said that extension would provide clarity, because, "Certain Movants allege there is some uncertainty as to what provisions continue in the Amended Joint Stipulation and Recommendation after March 31, 2018."

In their joint motion, the Movants had said that, "the Movants are working towards a negotiated solution to resolve their differences. Therefore, the Movants are requesting that the Commission expressly extend the Amended Joint Stipulation and Recommendation, through December 31, 2018 so that all the terms in effect as of March 31, 2018, continue uninterrupted through December 31, 2018, with the agreed-upon capacity levels updated for Columbia’s capacity contracts in effect on April 1, 2018 and any capacity contract updates through December 31, 2018. This extension would provide certainty while the Parties negotiate possible next steps with Columbia’s commodity exemption proceeding."

OCC opposed the sought relief as unneeded, given the terms of the stipulation.

PUCO agreed, and found that the relief sought by the Movants was unnecessary given that the stipulation expressly provides that it would continue beyond March 31, 2018 unless modified by the Commission

PUCO said that, "The Commission finds that the joint motion for extension should be denied. The Movants seek certainty and assurance that the terms of the Stipulation will continue without interruption. OCC argues that the joint motion is unnecessary because the Stipulation expressly provides for its uninterrupted continuation until the Commission orders otherwise."

PUCO noted that the Stipulation approved by the Commission provides as follows: "The Parties agree that the Amended Stipulation shall commence on April 1, 2013, and shall have a term extending until March 31, 2018. After the expiration of the term, the provisions of this Amended Stipulation including the then-approved method of supplying commodity for standard service offer and Standard CHOICE Offer ('SCO') service shall continue until modified by the Commission unless otherwise stated herein."

PUCO said that, "We agree with OCC that the plain language of the Stipulation obviates the need to extend the ending date of the term of the Stipulation from March 31, 2018, to December 31,2018. The Stipulation expressly states that its terms remain in effect after March 31, 2018. Moreover, the Stipulation provides that its terms will continue to remain in effect until the Commission orders otherwise. Hence, a revised ending term, whether December 31, 2018, or beyond, would have no bearing on the Stipulation nor the terms in effect as of March 31, 2018."

PUCO said that, "Additionally, R.C. 4929.08 provides that the Commission may modify an exemption order only under certain conditions and after notice and hearing. The Suppliers appear to contend that granting the joint motion for extension would not be a Commission action that modifies the Stipulation. We disagree. An extension of the date in the Stipulation from March 31, 2018, to December 31, 2018, would constitute a modification of the Stipulation and the Commission's prior exemption orders, thus requiring notice, hearing, and consideration of the conditions set forth in R.C. 4929.08."

PUCO said that, "Noting that the parties are negotiating next steps for Columbia's exemption proceedings, we direct that any motion to modify the Commission's prior exemption orders should be filed, pursuant to R.C. 4929.08 and Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-19-11, in a separate docket for our consideration."

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