Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed House Bill 1331 Tuesday,deregulating many aspects of the state gas industry and paving theway for statewide customer choice to begin Nov. 1.

Ridge touted the signing as a move that puts Pennsylvania at thefront of the energy competition race. “Through this new law,Pennsylvania continues to be the national leader when it comes toenergy competition,” he said. “We have the No. 1 electriccompetition program in the country, and now we’ll be the firststate to let our homeowners shop for both electric power andnatural gas.”

Of the nearly five million housing units in Pennsylvania-including houses, condominiums and apartments-over two million usenatural gas as a heating source, according to the PennsylvaniaPublic Utilities Commission (PUC). The signing of this bill willautomatically mean a lower gas bill for these customers, thanks tothe elimination of the 5% Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), which wasincluded in the legislation. He said the elimination of this taxwill save each family using gas to heat their homes $55/year for atotal of $82 million.

Other stipulations in the bill include an LDC rate freeze untilJan. 1, 2001 and mandatory capacity assignment until July 2002. LDCaffiliates are allowed to market in their parent company’s servicearea, but the bill requires the PUC to create and enforce a strictLDC affiliate code of conduct. The bill allows, but does notmandate, LDCs to exit the merchant function.

The bill was forged from the results of a statewidecollaborative made up of all interested marketers, labor parties,LDCs and regulators. Rep. Frank Tulli (R-Dauphin) and Sen. JeffPiccola (R-Dauphin) submitted companion bills to their respectivestate houses. The Senate approved their version, SB 601, in May.After a series of changes and delays (including a title change fromSB 601 to HB 1331), the bill finally won approval from both houseslast week (See Daily GPI, June 18)

©Copyright 1999 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. Thepreceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, inwhole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent ofIntelligence Press, Inc.