Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has appointed Martin Cohen, who has served as executive director of the state’s Citizens Utility Board (CUB) for the last 12 years, as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Cohen will be the first consumer advocate ever to lead the ICC.

Effective immediately, Cohen will serve out the remainder of former ICC Chairman Edward Hurley’s term, which ends on Jan. 9, 2009.

Blagojevich has tapped Hurley serve as a new special director of emergency energy assistance this winter to marshal resources from the public and private sectors and to coordinate assistance to vulnerable populations impacted by record-high heating costs.

Under Cohen, the consumer group helped pass legislation in 1997 that led to a record 20% cut in electric rates for most Illinois consumers, saving utility customers a total of over $5 billion.

CUB is also a party to a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and others challenging bids by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren to base rates on market prices set through the use of electricity auctions (see Power Market Today, Sept. 6).

“This is an unprecedented time for consumers in Illinois,” said Blagojevich. “They’re getting squeezed on all sides by rising gasoline costs, heating costs and utilities seeking rate increases. It’s more important than ever that consumers’ interests are strongly represented at the decision-making table. I’m proud to put a proven advocate like Marty Cohen at the helm of the ICC.”

CUB is a nonprofit statewide utility watchdog organization created by the state legislature to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers

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