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Georgia Deregulation Amendment Moving Quickly

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 competitiveness.

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.'"

John Norris

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