November 28, 2005

Utilities likely to get relief: report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some package of relief for the Gulf
Coast and southeastern United States utilities affected by
hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma is likely to pass Congress
by Christmas, the Stanford Washington Research Group said on

"At this point, the prevailing consensus anticipates ... at
least some of the tax relief sought for hurricane damages to
utilities surviving in a tax package that clears Congress
before the Christmas holiday," analyst Christine Tezak said in
a research note.

Tezak suggested such a bill would also include drilling in
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, though it would be
unlikely to contain a windfall tax on oil profits.

August's Katrina, and to lesser degrees September's Rita
and October's Wilma, wreaked havoc on utility infrastructure
throughout the region.

Tezak said the house version of a bill has no relief for
utilities, whereas the senate version has provisions including
a longer carryback for property losses and the potential to
receive community block grants for reconstruction.

Entergy Corp. has warned of more than $1 billion in
damages, and its New Orleans unit was forced into bankruptcy.

The company said it is actively pushing for relief from
Congress, through a variety of potential methods.

"They all have the same bottom line -- pumping federal
dollars into the electricity and gas service restoration
process, so that Entergy's dwindled New Orleans customer base
doesn't get a huge, unaffordable rate increase, and the efforts
to rebuild the local economy don't get derailed," spokeswoman
Yolanda Pollard said.

FPL Group Inc. has said its Wilma costs will surpass $500
million, while providers like Cleco Corp. and units of Southern
Co. were also impacted by Katrina and subsequent storms and
suffered millions in damages.

Representatives for the three were not immediately
available to comment on the likelihood of a bill passing.