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Pennsylvania Unbundling Bill Passes Senate

Pennsylvania Unbundling Bill Passes Senate

Pennsylvania's state Senate convincingly voiced its support for SB601, a gas deregulation bill for residential and small commercial customers, with a 47-3 vote of approval late Monday night. The bill is now in the hands of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives Consumer Affairs committee. If the bill is signed into law, each of the Pennsylvania natural gas utilities would be required to submit a restructuring plan to the PUC by Nov. 1.

John Quain, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission chairman, said at a Pennsylvania Gas Association meeting the window to get the bill through the entire legislature will close when this legislative session ends June 15. "We must get it done. We need to capture the moment," he said. "We are on the brink of something exciting, very positive, and necessary. The natural gas industry is ready for change."

Quain added that, if passed, the bill will allow the state's gas industry to enjoy the same success as other deregulated industries. "It's time for [the gas] industry to catch up and move forward from monopoly regulation to competition. It makes no sense to me to have one fuel regulated in Pennsylvania when all others now are competitive."

PECO Energy, a gas utility serving 415,000 natural gas customers in Philadelphia suburban counties, already has begun work preparing the company's restructuring plan, which will detail how the utility would interact with gas marketers and unbundle its services and rates.

Formed by a collaborative of LDCs, marketers and regulators, SB601 has instigated debate due to its compromising nature. It freezes LDC rates from the time it is passed until Jan. 1, 2001, which displeases LDCs, but it also requires mandatory capacity assignment until July 2002, which does not sit well with marketers. Overall, however, most key players in the state feel this bill can be successful (See Daily GPI, March 18).

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