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In December 2008, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) approved the acquisition by a group of long-term infrastructure investors of Puget Energy, Inc. and its wholly owned utility subsidiary, Puget Sound Energy Inc.. In approving the transaction, the WUTC determined that the appropriate standard under the state statutory requirement that any approved transaction be "consistent with the public interest" was the so-called "no harm" standard. In its approval under the no harm standard, the WUTC established the paradigm for defining the public interest in the context of utility merger applications that included a series of commitments required of the merging parties. These related to a variety of topics, among the most important of which dealt with capital requirements, financial integrity, and regulatory and ring-fencing commitments. The authors examine how the precedent established in the Puget Holdings decision has been adapted by certain other jurisdictions in contested merger approval proceedings.
During a routine daily inspection on October 23, 2015, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) employees discovered a gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility located in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles. What followed was an environmental crisis that would persist for four months and release an estimated 94,500 tons of methane, a greenhouse gas significantly more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. SoCalGas, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, plugged the leak and permanently sealed the affected well on February 18, 2016, but not before the leak became the largest methane release event ever recorded in the United States. The leak brought concerns over aging infrastructure and inadequate oversight and regulation to the forefront. The authors note that efforts to mitigate the leak and prevent future leaks will continue far beyond the immediate aftermath.
In her last column as chair, Dynda Thomas recaps many of the highlights of the past year: quarterly issues of Infrastructure, an annual compendium covering all our industry and practice committees in Recent Developments, two fascinating CLE webinars at no charge to Section members, and opportunities to participate actively in our Section's activities. The Section entered into a new sponsorship relationship with Navigant Consulting, made an in-person presentation to the ABA Board of Governors, and is now in the run up to the Section's Centennial Celebration. But the most notable change is a new name: at its 2016 annual meeting in San Francisco, the ABA House of Delegates approved the Section's new name-Infrastructure and Regulated Industries Section.
The Infrastructure's co-editor notes that we miss the graceful prose and thoughtful commentary of our long-time friend and editor of these pages, Judge Cudahy. But the editorial board has the good fortune to reap what the members of our Section sow-timely and interesting essays on issues affecting our Section industries and their important roles in our increasingly globalized economy. If you have an article in mind, please contact one of the editors listed in the masthead. We'd like to hear from you.