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South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Meeting
September 27, 2011, at 9:30 A.M. CDT
Room 412, Capitol Building

Pierre, South Dakota

MINUTES OF THE COMMISSION MEETING

Commissioner Chairman Gary Hanson called the meeting to Order. Present were: Commissioner Chris Nelson; Commission Counsel: John Smith and Rolayne Wiest; Commission Advisor: Greg Rislov; Staff Attorneys: Karen Cremer; Staff Analysts: Dave Jacobson, Bobbi Bourk, Chris Daugaard, Brian Rounds, Brittany Mehlhaff, and Jon Thurber; Consumer Affairs Supervisor: Deb Gregg and Staff: Demaris Axthelm and Joy Irving.

Also present were: Margo Northrup, Riter, Rogers, Wattier & Northrup, LLP, representing Venture Communications, South Dakota Telecommunications Association, and South Dakota Network; Jeffrey Decker, NorthWestern Energy; Jim Wilcox, Northern States Power Company dba Xcel Energy; and Bill Heaston, South Dakota Network.

Joining the meeting by telephone were: Commissioner Kristie Fiegen; Talbot Wieczorek, Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLC, representing WWC License LLC; Sara Dannen, NorthWestern Energy; Bob Sahr and Jeff Rud, East River Electric Power Cooperative; Ron Spangler, Kerry Kasemen, Kim Pederson, and Jessica Fyhrie, Otter Tail Power Company; Kari Valley, Northern States Power Company dba Xcel Energy; Meredith Moore, Cutler & Donahoe, LLP, representing Splitrock Properties, Inc. and OrbitCom, Inc; Jim Cremer, Bantz Gosch & Cremer LLC, representing Northern Valley Communications, LLC; Phil Schrenkenberg, Briggs & Morgan, P.A. representing Sprint Communications Company, L.P.; Darla Rogers, Riter, Rogers, Wattier & Northrup, LLP, representing South Dakota Telecommunications Association; Ross Buntrock, Arent Fox LLP, representing Northern Valley Communications, LLC; Sharon Thomas, Joe Mullin and Ross Artale, Spectrotel, Inc. dba OneTouch Communications dba Touch Base Communications

Consumer Reports

1.     Status Report on Consumer Utility Inquiries and Complaints Received by the Commission. (Consumer Affairs: Deb Gregg)

The Commission received a total of 103 contacts since the last report was prepared for the September 13, 2011 Commission meeting.

18 of the contacts involved telecommunication services, 33 of the contacts involved electrical services, 11 contacts involved natural gas service, 17 contacts involved cell phone service, 15 contacts were related to the Do Not Call Registry, and 9 contacts were related to issues not regulated by the PUC.

2,174 of the 2,259 complaints received in 2011 have been resolved.

Consumer Complaint

1.     CT05-002     In the Matter of the Complaint filed by WWC License LLC against Venture Communications Cooperative Regarding Intercarrier Billings (Staff Attorney: Rolayne Ailts Wiest)

Talbot Wieczorek, representing WWC License LLC, asked the Commission to dismiss both the complaint and counterclaims with prejudice and close the docket.

     Commissioner Fiegen moved to dismiss and close docket CT05-002. Motion carried 3-0

Natural Gas

1.     NG11-003     In the Matter of the Application of NorthWestern Corporation dba NorthWestern Energy for Authority to Increase its Natural Gas Rates (Staff Analysts: Jon Thurber, Brittany Mehlhaff, Bobbi Bourk, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)

Karen Cremer, staff attorney, stated that on September 9, 2011, the Commission received a petition for twenty-five (25) NorthWestern Public Service customers requesting to suspend the proposed rate increase requested by NorthWestern Public Service and to hold a public hearing to determine if such a rate should be allowed. Staff recommended that the city hold a public hearing in Scotland, SD, on October 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. to hear these customers concerns.

     Commissioner Fiegen moved to hold a public hearing in Scotland, SD, on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. Motion carried 3-0

2.     NG11-004     In the Matter of the Filing by NorthWestern Energy for Approval of Tariff Revisions (Staff Analyst: Dave Jacobson, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)

Jeffrey Decker, NorthWestern Energy (NorthWestern), asked the Commission for approval of NorthWestern's annual update. NorthWestern's tariff provides that the fuel retention percentages be adjusted annually with the updated percentages to be effective October 1 of each year.  Dave Jacobson, staff analyst, stated that the retention percentages were calculated consistent with prior filings and recommended approval.

     Commissioner Nelson moved to approve the Northwestern Energy tariff revisions. Motion carried 3-0.

3.     NG11-005     In the Matter of the Filing by NorthWestern Corporation dba NorthWestern Energy for Approval to Revise the Rates Included in the Contracts with Deviations Previously Approved in Dockets NG10-003, NG10-004, NG10-005, and NG10-006 (Staff Analyst: Dave Jacobson, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)

Jeffrey Decker, NorthWestern Energy (NorthWestern), requested that NorthWestern be allowed to revise the rates approved in dockets NG10-003, NG10-004, NG10-005, and NG10-006 which are all Contracts with Deviations entered into with South Dakota Wheat Growers at facilities located in Aberdeen, Willow Lake, Andover, and Yale, respectively. The final cost for providing service pursuant to the Contracts has now been determined and is significantly lower than originally estimated. NorthWestern has requested approval with less than 30 days notice.

     Commissioner Nelson moved to approve revised rates applicable with deviations to combine Dockets NG10-003, NG10-004, NG10-005 and NG10-006 with less than 30 days notice. Motion carried 3-0.

Rule Making

Commission Gary Hanson stated that RM09-002 and RM10-001 will be heard together.

1.     RM09-002     In the Matter of the Adoption of Rules Regarding Renewable, Recycled, and Conserved Energy (Staff Analysts: Brian Rounds, Chris Daugaard, Staff Attorney: Rolayne Ailts Wiest)

2.     RM10-001     In the Matter of the Request to Amend Rules Regarding ARSD Chapter 20:10:17 Gas and Electric Customer Billing. (Staff Analyst: Dave Jacobson, Staff Attorney: Kara Semmler, Commission Attorney: Rolayne Ailts Wiest)

A lengthy discussion took place regarding Docket RM09-002 on the Adoption of Rules Regarding Renewable, Recycled, and Conserved Energy and Docket RM10-001 request to Amend Rules Regarding ARSD Chapter 20:10:17 Gas and Electric Customer billing, which can be found on the PUC website under Commission Actions, Commission Meeting Archives, 2011, September 27, 2011, recording located at: http://puc.sd.gov/Archives/2011/default.aspx

     Commissioner Nelson moved to incorporate the changes to rule ARSD 20:10:17:09.01 as indicted by Rolayne Wiest, commission counsel as follows unless; 1) customer has selected a shorter repayment schedule or 2) the customer and utility company have agreed on a longer repayment schedule. Motion carried 3-0.              

     Commissioner Nelson moved to revise rule ARSD 20:10:38.01 sub 1 in the definition of conserved energy by replacing the first AND with an OR, so rule would read the Reduction of Energy OR Capacity Usage. Motion carried 3-0.  

     Commissioner Hanson moved to combine rules RM09-002 and RM10-001 dockets into a formal rule making docket with the amended changes. Motion carried 3-0.
        
Telecommunications

1.     TC09-098     In the Matter of the Complaint filed by South Dakota Network, LLC against Sprint Communications Company L.P. Regarding Failure to Pay Intrastate Centralized Equal Access Charges and to Immediately Pay Undisputed Portions of SDN's Invoices (Staff Analyst: Bobbi Bourk, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer) 

Meredith Moore, representing Splitrock Properties, Inc., asked the Commission to approve the Stipulation for Dismissal of Third Party Complaint of Sprint Communications against Splitrock Properties.  Karen Cremer, staff attorney, recommended granting approval of the Stipulation for Dismissal which will dismiss Sprint's third party complaints against Splitrock. Phil Schrenkenberg, representing Sprint, stated that Sprint had filed a proposed procedural schedule. Sprint stated that the parties agreed to the terms of the proposed procedural schedule except Northern Valley and Sancom proposed different language for paragraph nine. Ross Buntrock, representing Northern Valley, explained the reasons for the language proposed by Northern Valley and Sancom.

     Commissioner Nelson moved to approve the Stipulation for Dismissal and that Sprint's Third Party Complaint filed against Splitrock be dismissed with prejudice. Motion carried 3-0.

     Commission Nelson moved that the Proposed Revised Procedural Schedule filed on September 7, 2011, be approved with the language for paragraph 9 as proposed by Northern Valley and Sancom. Motion carried 3-0.

2.     TC11-074     In the Matter of the Filing by OrbitCom, Inc. fka VP Telecom, Inc., for Approval of its Intrastate Switched Access Tariff (Staff Analyst: Chris Daugaard, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)

Meredith Moore, representing OrbitCom, Inc. (OrbitCom) asked the Commission to approve the revised tariff as submitted. Karen Cremer, staff attorney, reviewed the tariff revisions and suggested making some changes which the company made and those are reflected in the Sept. 22 filing. Staff recommended granting approval of the tariff revisions.

     Commissioner Fiegen moved to approve the Intrastate Switched Access Tariff revisions. Motion carried 3-0

3.     TC11-081     In the Matter of the Application of Spectrotel, Inc. d/b/a OneTouch Communications d/b/a Touch Base Communications for a Certificate of Authority to Provide Interexchange Long Distance Services and Local Exchange Services in South Dakota (Staff Analyst: Brittany Mehlhaff, Staff Attorney: Karen Cremer)

Sharon Thomas, Spectrotel, Inc. dba OneTouch Communications dba Touch Base Communications Spectrotel, Inc. (Spectrotel), asked the Commission to grant the Certificate of Authority. Brittany Mehlhaff, staff analyst, stated Spectrotel filed an application for a certificate of authority to provide interexchange long distance services and local exchange services in South Dakota. With the additional information provided in the Company's responses to Staff's data requests, the Company's filing conforms to the Commission's administrative rules. Spectrotel has agreed to restrictions from offering prepaid calling cards and from collecting customer deposits or advance payments without prior approval of the Commission. Staff recommended the Commission grant the Certificate of Authority to Spectrotel, subject to rural safeguards, and the condition that Spectrotel not offer any prepaid services (including prepaid calling cards) and not accept or require any deposits or advance payments without prior approval of the Commission.

     Commissioner Hanson moved to grant a Certificate of Authority to Spectrotel, Inc. d/b/a OneTouch Communications d/b/a Touch Base Communications subject to rural safeguards and the condition that Spectrotel not offer any prepaid services (including prepaid calling cards) and not accept or require any deposits or advance payments without prior approval of the Commission. Motion carried 3-0

There being no further business, at the hour of 10:28 a.m., the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission meeting adjourned. The next Commission meeting is scheduled for October 11, 2011.

 

/S/Joy Irving
Joy Irving
Administrative Assistant
puc@state.sd.us
September 27, 2011