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August 2, 2010

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State Regulatory Relations

Commissioner Appointed to West Virginia PSC

Commissioner Ryan B. Palmer

Governor Joe Manchin recently announced his appointment of Ryan B. Palmer to serve as commissioner of the three-member West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) regulatory panel. Commissioner Palmer succeeds Commissioner Ed Staats, who completed his term at the commission June of last year. However, he agreed to continue to serve until the governor selected a replacement. Commissioner Palmer started his term July 1, 2010.

Commissioner Palmer has served as deputy general counsel to the governor since 2008. As a member of the governor’s legal staff, his responsibilities included: drafting legislation, advising the governor on pending legislation, serving as the governor’s designee on various boards and commissions, and researching a wide variety of legal issues.

Prior to joining the governor’s legal counsel, Commissioner Palmer spent five years in Washington, D.C. as an attorney for the United States International Trade Commission (USITC). Commissioner Palmer also worked for the United States District Court, Northern District of West Virginia, as a law clerk for Judge Craig Broadwater.

“I want to thank Ed for his many years of public service and diligent work at the PSC. Ed graciously continued to serve as commissioner while I underwent the process of selecting an individual I felt would be most capable of moving the PSC forward,” said Governor Manchin.

Governor Manchin noted that finding a replacement for Commissioner Staats was not easy, but that Commissioner Palmer brings new energy to the commission and is an excellent choice. “As a young family man, Ryan truly understands the struggles that West Virginia families face every day,” the governor said. “Ryan has truly been a great contributor to my legal team. He is an extremely hard worker and sound decision-maker. I am truly pleased that he has accepted this appointment. I am confident that he will bring a new dynamic to the Public Service Commission’s regulatory panel.”

Commissioner Palmer received a bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia University and a doctor of jurisprudence from WVU’s College of Law.

He has volunteered for Charleston Area Medical Center’s Challenged Sports Program, which sponsors a variety of statewide sporting competitions for athletes of all ages with physical disabilities and for the Special Olympics.

“I appreciate the governor’s confidence and I am eager to serve the citizens of our state in this new capacity,” Commissioner Palmer said.


New York PSC Approves Three-Year Rate Plan for United Water New York

By Order issued July 20, 2010, the New York Public Service Commission adopted, with some modification, a Joint Settlement Proposal submitted by United Water New York and the Staff of the Department of Public Service setting forth a three-year rate plan for United Water as set in United Water New York, Inc., Case No. 09-W-0731. The agreement generally keeps in place an adjustment clause established in 2006 whereby revenue, water production costs, taxes and certain other items are reconciled on an annual basis. Commenting favorably on this provision, the PSC noted:

The clause provides certainty for the company that it will receive the revenues it needs to operate the water system. It also eliminates, for the benefit of customers and the company, the revenue collection fluctuations produced by variations in seasonal weather conditions. During a hot summer, when water consumption is high, United Water will not benefit from any extra sales. During a rainy or cool summer, the Company will still obtain the amount of revenues it would expect to receive during a typical summer.

The agreement is also designed to incentivize the company to increase its revenues by renting locations on or at its facilities to communications antenna operators. More specifically, United Water will be allowed to keep for its shareholders 15 percent of the estimated revenue to be derived from such activities. In addition, United Water will retain 20 percent of the net proceeds it received in settlement of litigation brought against several large oil companies for damages occasioned by the contamination of water supplies by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) (the other 80 percent of the proceeds are to be refunded to customers during the first two years of the three-year rate plan). Finally, United Water agreed to continue to provide customers with outreach and education on such issues as service quality, system improvements, water conservation and customer rights.

The decision also preserves the New Water Supply Surcharge which is designed to recover certain supply projects on an expedited basis.


Florida Governor Appoints New Commissioners

Commissioner Art Graham and Commissioner Ronald A. Brisé

Commissioner Art Graham was appointed to the Florida Public Service Commission by Governor Charlie Crist to fill an unexpired term through January 2014. Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Graham served on the Jacksonville City Council.

Among his duties as a council member, Commissioner Graham helped oversee the budget of JEA, a publicly owned electric, water and wastewater utility. He also chaired the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee and served on the Jacksonville Beach City Council from 1998 to 2002.

Commissioner Graham is a past chair of the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization and vice president of the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Association. He was a recovery engineer with Georgia Pacific Pulp and Paper from 1995 to 2002 and a sales engineer with Betz PaperChem from 1991 to 1995. With Goodyear Tire and Rubber, he was a regional sales manager from 1989 to 1991 and an application engineer from 1988 to 1989.

Commissioner Graham received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Commissioner Ronald A. Brisé was appointed to the Florida Public Service Commission by Governor Charlie Crist in July 2010 to fill an unexpired term through January 2014. Before this appointment, Commissioner Brisé served the citizens of North Miami (District 108) in the Florida House of Representatives for four years.

As a Representative, Commissioner Brisé was named Democratic Whip from 2006 to 2008 and served as Vice Chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. He served on the Education & Economic Development Appropriations, General Government & Health Care Appropriations, and Select Strategic & Economic Planning Councils, was the Ranking Member on the State & Community Colleges and Workforce Appropriation Committee and served on the State Universities & Private Colleges Policy Committee. He also served on the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations and the Energy and Utilities Policy Committees.

For the past five years, Commissioner Brisé was the chief operating officer for IPIP Corporation, a VoIP Telecommunications Carrier. Prior to this, he was the Science Department chairperson at the Miami Union Academy from 2000 to 2005 and also was the Academy’s director of development, marketing, and recruitment from 2003 to 2005. He is the chief executive officer of Strategic Partner Consulting, LLC, which provides leadership and development strategies for corporate clients.

A past member of the North Miami Planning Commission, Commissioner Brisé is also a past president of the Albert C. Pierre Community Center, a member of the NAACP, and serves on the boards of the Haitian-American Scholarship Fund and the Miami Union Academy.

Commissioner Brisé received a bachelor’s degree in biology education from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama and an M.B.A. in management and marketing from American Intercontinental University in Illinois.


Tennessee Court Dismisses Rate Appeal

In the legal opinion City of Chattanooga v. Tennessee Regulatory Authority, 2010 Tenn. App. LEXIS 459. issued on July 21, 2010, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee dismissed an appeal taken by the City of Chattanooga from an order of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) establishing new rates for Tennessee-American Water Company (TAWC). The City contended that the TRA had erred in approving TAWC’s claim for management fees. However, the Court concluded that the City’s appeal was moot because the rates which it challenged were no longer in effect, having been superseded by a subsequent rate filing:

By the terms of the 2008 Rate Case Tariffs, they cancelled and replaced the 2006 Rate Case Tariffs. Accordingly, the rates approved by the TRA in the 2006 Final Order are not now in effect, and have not been in effect since October 1, 2008. Therefore, if this Court were to determine that TRA did commit error in the 2006 Rate Case Final Order, that decision of the Court would have no effect on the rates TAWC is permitted to charge its customers now or in the future [citation omitted].