DR 98-157 
                           DR 98-158 
                           DR 98-159
                    Earnings Investigations
                Order Approving Temporary Rates
                    O R D E R   N O.  23,092
                       December 21, 1998
       On November 6, 1998, pursuant to Order No. 23,060, the
     New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (Commission) held a
     hearing on the issue of temporary rates for Chichester,
     Kearsarge, and Meriden Telephone Companies for the pendency of
     their respective earnings investigations. 
       Staff initiated the earnings investigations of these
     three companies.  While Staff believes that at least two of the
     companies are over-earning, the companies assert that none are
     over-earning and two are under-earning.  Nonetheless, at the
     hearing, the Parties and Staff reported their agreement that
     temporary rates for each of the companies should be set at
     current rates, effective upon the issuance of the Commission's
       Temporary rates are governed by RSA 378:27, which
         In any proceeding involving the rates of a public
       utility...,the commission may, after reasonable notice
       and hearing, if it be of the opinion that the public
       interest so requires, immediately fix, determine, and
       prescribe for the duration of said proceeding
       reasonable temporary rates, provided, however, that
       such temporary rates shall be sufficient to yield not
       less than a reasonable return on the costs of the
       property of the utility used and useful in the public
       service less accrued depreciation, as shown by the
       reports of the utility filed with the commission,
       unless there appears to be reasonable ground for
       questioning the figures in such reports.
     "The power conferred upon the Commission by this section to
     prescribe temporary rates extends to instances where either a
     rate reduction or increase is sought."  Public Service Company of
     New Hampshire v. State, 102 N.H. 66, 150 A.2d 810 (1959),
     dismissed, Public Service Company v. State, 102 N.H. 150. In the
     instant cases, where there is a dispute as to the appropriate
     rate each company should be earning, the public good is well
     served by imposing temporary rates which will have the effect of
     protecting both ratepayers and the utility.  There is no
     contention that current rates are confiscatory.  Accordingly, we
     will order that temporary rates at current levels go into effect
     upon issuance of this order.
       Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
       ORDERED, that temporary rates are imposed on
     Chichester, Kearsarge, and Meriden Telephone Companies at their
     respective current rates effective upon issuance of this order.
       By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
     Hampshire this twenty-first day of December, 1998.
           Douglas L. Patch       Susan S. Geiger     Nancy Brockway
               Chairman           Commissioner          Commissioner
     Attested by:
     Thomas B. Getz
     Executive Director and Secretary