CPUC judge tells Frontier, consumer groups to stop squabbling and deal with the issues

15 October 2020 by Steve Blum
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Both Frontier Communications and the “intervenors” who want a say in how its bankruptcy reorganisation plays out in California were scolded yesterday by a California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge (ALJ). The result might be a delay – maybe a week, maybe something else – in concluding the CPUC’s review of the reorganisation plan and the bankruptcy settlement.

In an emailed ruling, ALJ Peter Wercinski cancelled three days of hearings scheduled for the end of the month, saying that none of the parties involved have yet addressed the issues surrounding the bankruptcy that were identified by the commission

The Public Advocates Office stated in its October 12, 2020 response that “all material issues in the Scoping Memo remain at issue.” When asked at the October 13, 2020 status conference whether all [identified] issues would need to be addressed at evidentiary hearings, counsel said no but failed to identify which issues would need to be addressed at the hearings….The Utility Reform Network (TURN) stated that it was still reviewing testimony regarding a plan for cross-examination and identification of disputed issues of fact. Although TURN’s response did reference several issues it identified as disputed facts, TURN failed to state that those references were all of the material issues of disputed fact to be addressed at the hearings. In its response, [Frontier] failed to identify any [identified] issues but rather argued that the hearings should focus on Intervenors’ “numerous proposed conditions.” Although some of the parties in their October 12, 2020 responses and at the October 13, 2020 status conference attempted to identify disputed material issues of fact, those attempts often failed in that they lacked specificity or were argument, assertions of policy, or claims for the imposition of conditions based upon uncertainty regarding the possible future effects of [Frontier’s] restructuring.

Wercinski gave Frontier and the rest until next week to get their plans and paperwork in order. If they do and it meets spec, two days of hearings – instead of the original three days – could be set either for the end of October or the beginning of November.

Or he could decide to skip hearings altogether and rely solely on written evidence and arguments. Either way, the original schedule won’t shift – a decision early next year is still a good enough bet.