Thursday, June 15, 2006

Possibility for Real Relief

The General Assembly did its job late last night and finally passed a bill to provide some semblance of relief to consumers who faced massive electricity rate increases.

Under the legislature's bill, developed by Democrats with little input from Republicans and none from Gov. Ehrlich, rates would only increase 15 percent this summer. Consumers would then pay the full market rate by January 2008.

The package also fires the current members of the state's Public Service Commission, whose affinities to business prevented them from acting in the public interest.

And in firing the PSC, the legislature opens the door to real benefits for consumers. Simply deferring the full market rates a year and a half doesn't help rate-payers a bit. The new PSC, however, could use this period to review what exactly a fair "market rate" is. If it is filled by those who place Marylanders' interests ahead of industry, it could take an objective look at the companies' finances, the national costs of energy and even what consumers can afford. Such a calculation could result in a lower, though realistic, market rate that would spare consumers a huge increase while also keeping Constellation Energy a viable corporation.

That said, the plan does not help consumers on face value. If the new PSC doesn't come through, consumers will be saddled with huge electricity rate increases in less than two years. And then we're back where we started.

from The League: Reassembled

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