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PSC denies Great Plains request for expedited answer on Westar deal

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved four new orders at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday in addition to hearing a 20-minute presentation from Summit Natural Gas.

The PSC first approved a request from Windstream Missouri, LLC, asking that it reverse a decision of the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, NeuStar, Inc., to withhold certain phone numbers from Windstream in the Laclede, Liberal and Madison, Mo., rate centers.

“We are basically running out of phone numbers,” Commissioner Scott Rupp said. “So they kind of get stingy with them, but areas in the state need more phone numbers, especially for broad band.”

Windstream, in the request, said it does not have the numbers available for assignment in those areas to meet broadband needs. NANPA denied Windstream’s request for the additional numbers because it said they don’t meet certain criteria.

The PSC staff, however, examined Windstream’s request and recommended overruling NANPA because, in staff’s opinion, Windstream demonstrated a verifiable need for the additional routing and telephone numbers, especially in rural areas.

The commission also approved an order denying a request from Kansas City, Mo.-based Great Plains Energy to answer a legal question by July 1 about whether the commission has legal jurisdiction over the company’s proposed $8.6 million acquisition of rival Westar.

The commission has been investigating a claim from Great Plains questioning whether the commission has jurisdiction over the sale. Great Plains said from the outset that it would seek approval from Kansas regulators but not in Missouri. PSC staff argues that Great Plains agreed 15 years ago to seek the agency’s approval if it ever bought a public utility, but Great Plains said the commission has no authority because the Westar customers are in Kansas.

At the Wednesday meeting, the commission denied Great Plains’ request for an expedited answer, despite the company’s argument that a prompt resolution would not hinder staff’s investigation in any way. The company apparently wanted to be able to file with both Missouri and Kansas regulators on the same day, July 1.

The commission’s staff, in its response, wondered what the hurry was for a sale that is still said to be at least a year away. Staff members also said that the investigation has already been put on the fast track out of deference to Great Plains. Staff’s report about whether the commission has jurisdiction remains on target for July 25.

The commission also heard a presentation from Summit Natural Gas president and CEO Kurt Adams. Adams, who was accompanied by a team of executives, highlighted the company’s 40,000 natural gas customers in Maine, Missouri and Colorado, with 44 percent of those in Missouri.

The company has 300 miles of transmission in Missouri, Adams told commissioners, and has seen growth of about 20 percent since it entered the state with its 2012 acquisition of Southern Missouri Natural Gas.