DR 98-049
                       NORTHERN UTILITIES, INC.
               Recovery of Environmental Response Costs
                 Order Granting Protective Treatment
                       O R D E R   N O.  23,006
                          September 1, 1998
         On August 7, 1998, Northern Utilities, Inc. (Northern)
filed with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission
(Commission) a Motion for Protective Order and Confidential
Treatment (Motion) of information pertaining to Northern's
efforts in seeking insurance recovery of remediation costs
related to its former manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites,
including details of Northern's negotiations, settlement
discussions and dealings with its insurance carriers, as well as
those of its parent company, Bay State Gas Company (Bay State).
On July 8, 1998, the Commission Staff (Staff) submitted data
request 1-8 to Northern, requesting details regarding Northern's
and Bay State's efforts to recover remediation costs from
potentially responsible parties.  Northern responded to the data
request by indicating that Northern and Bay State have agreed
with all of their insurance carriers to keep confidential any
negotiations or settlement discussions.  Northern also indicated
that disclosure of its negotiating strategies with its insurance
carriers to the public would harm Northern's and Bay State's
interests and those of their ratepayers.  Northern seeks
protection of this information in both the discovery and the
hearing phases of this docket.
         In its Motion, Northern states that the documents
contain confidential commercial information and are proprietary
in nature and/or constitute trade secrets which fall within the
exemption from public disclosure of RSA 91-A:5,IV and N.H. Admin.
Rules, Puc 204.06.  Northern also states that it does not
disclose the identified information and terms to anyone outside
its corporate affiliates and representatives.  Staff agreed that
the material qualified for protection pursuant to RSA 91-A and
our administrative rules.
         The Commission recognizes that the information
identified above is critical to the review of Northern's proposed
recovery of environmental response costs by the Commission, Staff
and the Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA).  We also recognize the
need for confidential treatment of the settlement negotiations
and any settlements between Northern and their insurance
carriers.  Based on the company's representations, under the
balancing test we have applied in prior cases, e.g.,Re New
England Telephone Company (Auditel), 80 NHPUC 437 (1995); Re Bell
Atlantic, Order No. 22,851 (February 17, 1998); Re EnergyNorth
Natural Gas, Inc., Order No. 22,859 (February 24, 1998), we find
that the benefits to Northern of non-disclosure in this case
outweigh the benefits to the public of disclosure.  We will,
therefore, grant Northern's Motion for Protective Treatment
pursuant to RSA 91-A:5,IV and N.H. Admin. Rules, Puc 204.06. 
      Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
 ORDERED, that Northern's Motion for Protective
Treatment is GRANTED to allow Staff and the OCA to review fully
Northern's proposed recovery of environmental response costs     
and to protect from public disclosure the information delineated
above which is relevant to the proceeding; and it is
 FURTHER ORDERED, that Northern's response to Staff Data
Request 1-8 shall be and hereby designated as Protected Material;
and it is
 FURTHER ORDERED, that this Order is subject to the
ongoing rights of the Commission, on its own motion or on the
motion of Staff or any party or any other member of the public to
reconsider this Order in light of RSA 91-A, should circumstances
so warrant.

 By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
Hampshire this first day of September, 1998.

               Douglas L. Patch     Bruce B. Ellsworth    Susan S. Geiger
                   Chairman            Commissioner         Commissioner

Attested by:

Thomas B. Getz
Executive Director and Secretary