utilities

Legislators authorize utilities funding chambers of commerce (updated and corrected)

Legislation authorizing natural gas utility companies to provide funding to local chambers of commerce was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The House initially spurned the bill, but then reconsidered and approved it in the waning moments of the 2018 session.

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Bill would fix foulup blocking sewer authority loans

Two legislators are looking for an emergency patch after a law they passed last year to dissolve Hamilton County’s sewer authority in 2011 cost the agency access to loans, reports the Times-Free Press.

State officials balked at approving some $13 million in new revolving loans for the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority because it wasn’t clear what successor entity or local government would repay them if the WWTA went away.

“Someone in the attorney general’s office put a stop on those” loans, said Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. “We got notice the state revolving funds were not coming.”

Carter and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, say they thought the loan issue had been resolved last year … Watson’s bill (SB951) to address the concerns and permit new loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Program is scheduled for Senate floor action this afternoon. But Watson said he may delay a final vote… “just to make sure everybody understands you can’t walk away from these state funds.”

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TRA to become TPUC (back to the future in names?)

The House has given final approval to a bill changing the name of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority to the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission. The measure (SB747) also declares that board member of the agency will be known as ‘commissioners’ rather than “directors.”

It was introduced at the request of officials of the agency, according to the sponsors, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville. On the House floor, Marsh told colleagues that Tennessee is “one of the few, if not the only” state in the nation where the agency vested with utility-regulating authority has board member known as directors.

As a matter of Tennessee history, the name change might be seen as a return to another era. The agency was initially established as the Tennessee Railroad Commission in 1897 with three elected “commissioners” to regulate fees charged by railroads. It’s duties were expanded to include broader oversight in 1919 and the name was changed to the “Railroad and Public Utilities Commission.”

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