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
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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