Competitor wants to be involved in Citizens case before the ACC

A utility competitor has asked to be involved in Citizens rate hike and sale case before a state regulatory commission.

Southwest Gas asked for intervenor status in the Citizens/UniSource rate and sale cases during recent procedural hearings before the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The ACC oversees utility operations in Arizona.

As an intervenor, Southwest Gas would have to be notified of any hearings in the case and can testify and cross-examine witnesses during hearings.

Procedural hearings originally scheduled in December were postponed to allow UniSource to make a request for changes, Heather Murphy, ACC communications director said.

UniSource, parent company of Tucson Electric Power, has contracted to purchase Citizens Arizona Electric and Citizens Arizona Gas.

"It is not unusual for a competitor to file for intervenor status in a case before the ACC," Murphy said.

"Tucson Electric and Arizona Public Service often file on each others' cases."

ACC Administrative Law Judge Dwight Nodes will continue to hear the Citizens rate and sale cases.

Nodes set a deadline of Jan.

29 for legal briefs from all parties on the request of Southwest Gas to intervene.

Murphy said Nodes would schedule the hearings and next steps in the Citizens cases soon.

UniSource has asked that the ACC move the electric and gas rate increases and the sale approval together so the purchase could be finalized by summer.

UniSource amended the Citizens rate increase requests to 22 percent for Citizens Arizona Electric, reduced from 45 percent, and a reduction for Citizens Arizona Gas, from 29 percent to 23 percent.

The Citizens rate case resolution is included in the Tucson Electric/UniSource purchase contract, according to Steven Lynn, manager of corporate relations for UniSource.

"The deal with Citizens includes the regulatory issues," Lynn said.

"We want to move all issues before the ACC rapidly for a midyear 2003 financial closing of the purchase."

In October 2002 UniSource agreed to pay $230 million for Citizens' gas and electric transmission and distribution assets in northern and southern Arizona.

Citizens electric systems serve 76,500 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz counties.

Citizens serves 122,000 natural gas customers in Santa Cruz, Mohave, Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties.

If the purchase is approved, the Citizens assets will become part of UniSource Energy Services, Inc., a new subsidiary of UniSource Energy.

A company spokesperson said UniSource Energy expects retain most of the current employees of Citizens electric and gas companies.