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PA Gas Deregulation Bill to Meet Opposition

PA Gas Deregulation Bill to Meet Opposition

The Pennsylvania Gas Deregulation bill, which was introduced to the state legislature last week, will meet steadfast opposition during the upcoming Senate Consumer Protection committee hearing on March 23. The hearing will be the first time the bill goes up for debate.

The bill was introduced to the Senate by Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) and to the House by Rep. Frank Tulli (R-106) despite the disapproving opinions of a high-powered groups. A source close to the situation said Enron, along with Shell, Connectiv Energy, DTE Edison America, Green Mountain Energy Resources, and the Natural Gas Supply Association combined to submit a letter in late February to PUC Commissioners John Quain and Aaron Wilson voicing their displeasure. They opposed the collaborative's decisions to allow mandatory capacity assignment until 2002, to permit LDC affiliates to market to Pennsylvania customers, and to allow the metering, billing and collection services to stay bundled.

In the proposed legislation, the source said these issues were not addressed to the liking of the opposing parties. A representative from Connectiv will testify against the legislation at the March 23 hearing.

"While the current proposal contains some positive aspects," the authors of the letter wrote, "our review leads us to the emphatic conclusion that, if enacted, this proposal will not produce benefits -- robust competition, lower prices, better service and more innovative products -- all of us are striving to deliver to the Commonwealth's natural gas customers and, particularly, residential and small businesses."

The only other company to speak out against the bill is National Fuel Gas, a gas utility serving 195,444 customers in Pennsylvania. It is scheduled to testify at the Consumer Protection hearing as well. "We don't want to make any specific statements yet," said NFG spokesperson Julie Coppola. "We're still working to make the bill better but, as of now, we don't support it."

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