Georgia Deregulation Amendment Moving Quickly
With seven scheduled days left in the present legislative session, an
amendment aimed at simplifying the assignment process in Georgia's gas
deregulation law is steam-rolling its way through the legislature. House
Bill 822 passed through the state House of Representatives with a 164-0
vote last Tuesday, and after a brief stay in the hands of the Senate Finance
Committee, it is on its way to the Senate floor for approval.
"The danger is always there that things might get held up and the
bill might not be passed," said Georgia Public Service Commissioner
(GPSC) Bob Baker. "But, I'd say it isn't probable. We've talked to
the senate and the governor, so things should get done quickly."
If passed, the bill entitles the GPSC to deem any of Georgia's nine
pools as competitive gas markets (See NGI, March
1). In the deregulation law, a competitive market is reached when 33%
of the population in the pool switch gas suppliers from Atlanta Gas Light
(AGL). As it stands now, the pools must apply one by one when they reach
Baker said docket 10473 has been opened in the GPSC in anticipation
of the bill's passage. This docket requests that the three pools that have
passed the 33% mark, Newnan (36.5%), Augusta (38.6%), and Macon (37.2%),
be deemed competitive but also allows an opportunity for more pools to
be added. Baker said if the bill is passed, the GPSC will attempt to put
all the pools onto the docket regardless of percentages.
"Plenty of people have switched," he said. About 480,000 customers
have switched from AGL. "And to avoid the confusion of having one
area start the assignment process while the others wait, we want to get
all of them on the same page."
To make the assignment process as smooth as possible, informal workshops
are being held for the GPSC, the 19 marketers in the state and AGL. The
first workshop was held March 1, and it was such a success Baker said another
meeting is tentatively planned for later this month.
One potential path being discussed is to start the assignment process
in one of the pools and use it as a test area. "This idea was passed
around, and many people showed genuine interest," Baker said. "It
is still in debate, but nobody has come out and said 'You can't do that.'"
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