Uncertainty over the treatment of municipal aggregation in NewJersey’s energy deregulation legislation caused the state’srestructuring bill to be bounced back and forth several times lastweek between the general assembly and senate, resulting in at leasta two-week delay before a final decision. The restructuring billprovides strict deadlines of Aug. 1 for statewide electric utilitygeneration unbundling, and Dec. 31 for statewide gas utility supplyunbundling. It is being reviewed by the assembly at the presenttime, and the next available voting session will take place Jan.28.

Each state house took a different view on how the 566 statemunicipalities would select an energy supplier under the new bill.The senate passed the bill last Tuesday, requiring a majority voteby municipality leadership for selection of an energy supplier. Thebill included an “opt-out” clause that stipulates residents mustnotify the municipality if they do not want to use the supplier themunicipality picked.

The assembly, however, voted to amend the bill, requiring amunicipality to hold a referendum in order to select a supplier,and also maintain the “opt out” clause. “Our position is that wedon’t want to hinder anybody’s right to choose,” said MichelleGiles, spokeswoman for the assembly majority. “We feel thatreferendum is the best way to decide municipal selection.”

The senate rejected the amended version and sent the bill backto the assembly. The next voting session is not for two weeks.

Despite the disagreement, Rae Hutton, senate majorityspokesperson, said, “This is not a contentious issue. There isconsensus in both houses and in both parties that energyderegulation will lower rates. We’re 98% there. It’s going to be acontinuing effort, but I don’t think this delay will have too mucheffect on the bill’s start-up dates.”

Giles had a different view. “Both sides do want deregulation,but the assembly is very dedicated on pushing the referendumthrough. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens.”

John Norris

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