Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Power deregulation bill goes to Taft

Governor says he'll sign measure

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Senate voted to accept House changes to a long-sought bill to bring competition to Ohio's electric power industry Tuesday, putting the Legislature's final stamp on the issue — for now.

        The 29-3 vote sent the bill to Gov. Bob Taft, who said he will sign it into law. Mr. Taft and legislative leaders had set a July 1 deadline for the bill, which will become law after six years of haggling between the utility mo nopolies and their biggest customers.

        “It's going to be good for residential customers, it's going to be good for business customers, it's going to be very good for Ohio to have affordable and competitive rates for electricity,” Mr. Taft said.

        The sweeping legislation will have a great effect on Ohioans:

        • For consumers: Residential users will see a 5 percent rate cut on the generation portion of their bills starting in January 2001.

        • For companies: After years of high electric bills, they'll be able to shop around for lower rates.

        • For utilities: Almost immediately, they'll be able to sell or buy assets or begin offering new services.

        • For the state: Making electric rates competitive could mean more companies moving to Ohio or expanding here.

        The Senate passed its version of the bill May 19, but the legislation on the floor Tuesday was far different from the one that went over to the House.

        In private talks guided by Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Reynoldsburg, and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Alan Schriber, representatives of the utilities and indus trial and large commercial users compromised on several lingering issues.

        Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren stood in for residential customers in the talks.

        A spokesman for Cinergy Corp., which includes Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co., said the utility had no specific comment on final passage of the landmark bill.

        But last week, James Turner, CG&E president, said that while not perfect, “it's as good a bill as we could get and could be one of the better bills in the country.”

        A key provision requires each utility in the state to submit a detailed plan to the Public Utilities Commission within 90 days of the legisla tion's effective date, detailing how they'll implement deregulation in their service area.

        The House added provisions allowing residential customers to buy electricity in municipal groups, make it easier for utilities to collect the cost of lost investments from consumers, and require the utilities to separate their marketing divisions from their transmission and distribution units.

        Both those functions will remain regulated monopolies.

        Enquirer reporter Mike Boyer and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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