GBC registers mixed reaction to special session’s electricity bill

Greater Baltimore Committee president Donald C. Fry voiced a mixed reaction to the electricity rate bill passed June 15 by the General Assembly.

“The bill appears to accomplish the goal of lessening the immediate impact, on the consumer, of dramatic increases in the cost of electricity in a way that Constellation Energy can live with,” said Fry. “Lawmakers deserve credit for listening to Constellation and addressing the company’s concerns.”

However, provisions in the bill that, in effect, give new state government oversight of Constellation’s planned merger with the FPL Group and other business transactions will not likely bolster the perception of Maryland’s business climate outside its borders, Fry added.

“The Greater Baltimore Committee and business advocates in Maryland have some work to do in convincing our lawmakers that the best interests of the business community and of Main Street are not, by definition, conflicting interests,” said Fry.

Following are brief highlights of the legislation, according to the state Department of Legislative Services:

  • BGE customer rates will increase15 percent on July 1, 2006;
  • Beginning June 1, 2007, customers will have the option of paying full market rates or participate in a subsequent phase-in plan to be developed by the Public Service Commission;
  • Customers must begin paying full market rates no later than January 1, 2008;
  • The 15 percent rate increase on July 1 equates to an increase of $12 per month for the average customer, plus a net deferral charge of $2.19 per month, which customers will pay for 10 years;
  • The terms of the current members of the Public Service commission would expire on July 1. Gov. Ehrlich would appoint a new commission from a list of names submitted by the House Speaker and the Senate President;
  • The Public Service Commission is given the authority to approve or disapprove the merger between Constellation Energy Group and the FPL Group. It is also directed to authorize a number of other stock-related and lending transactions by public service companies in Maryland;
  • The office of the Attorney General is directed to participate in Public Service Commission proceedings and other hearings regarding the Constellation-FPL merger.