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Maryland Passes Electric Choice Legislation

Maryland Passes Electric Choice Legislation

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening signed an electric restructuring bill and related tax measures into law last Thursday less than a week after the Maryland General Assembly passed the legislation. The new law will phase in residential customer choice over a three-year period beginning with one-third of residential customers July 1, 2000. Residential customers choosing to keep their utility as supplier would get rate cuts of 3% to 7.5% to be determined by the Public Service Commission. The rate cuts would last four years and then rates would be deregulated.

"I am pleased that the legislature responded to my proposal to include a mandated rate reduction for Maryland residential homeowners in the bill to protect consumers from unintended rate increases," Glendening said. "Frankly, I wish the reduction was more than 3%. I also wish that stronger environmental provisions had been included. The General Assembly has strongly indicated, however, that they believe this proposal is the best that can be accomplished, and this bill is too important for Maryland's future to hold up further."

Six utilities serve Maryland. They are Allegheny Power, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Conectiv, Potomac Electric Power, Choptank Electric Cooperative, and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.

In January 1998, Maryland utility regulators said they were rolling back their aggressive schedule to restructure the state's retail electricity markets by more than a year due to the "magnitude and complexity" of the issues facing them. The move was prompted by a filing of the Maryland Office of People's Counsel that questioned the authority of the Maryland Public Service Commission to implement the electricity restructuring order it issued the previous November. That order would have allowed as many as a third of the state's electric customers to shop for competing providers by April 1, 1999. The new order called for the first phase of competition to begin July 1, 2000.

Joe Fisher, Houston

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