Electric Rate Plan Surging Through General Assembly

The Illinois Senate is quickly advancing legislation that will allow Illinois’ main utilities to charge customers more for electricity.

Illinois legislators already gave Commonwealth Edison and Ameren the go-ahead to raise rates, in 2011.  They passed a law over Governor Pat Quinn’s objections that changes the formula used to determine what the companies can charge. The new formula was supposed to get ComEd and Ameren more money they could use to pay for improvements to the electric grid.

But the utilities say it didn’t work as intended.  They say regulators aren’t letting them charge what they need.

Now the companies are back , asking the legislature to pass another law, clarifying the old one.

“Without it we are stalled in these programs.  We can’t proceed forward and ramp them up as we intended,” ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore said.

Lawmakers are complying.  Every member of a Senate committee voted for a measure that will allow ComEd and Ameren to raise rates  – including retroactively, with interest.

ComEd and Ameren are also suing in court, but that could take years.

Consumer watchdogs, like Scott Musser of AARP, say the new proposal is an end run around the courts and regulators.

“Sort of like venue shopping I guess you could say.  I think ComEd thinks the General Assembly’s been much nicer to them over the past few years than what they expect the courts to be,” he said.

The idea being that legislators may be kinder to the utilities, in appreciation for loads of campaign contributions … which have surged in recent years.

Despite consumer advocates’ opposition, the measure is speeding through the General Assembly.

That way if Quinn, who has long battled with utilities, vetoes it, lawmakers can override it this spring, and the utilities won’t have to wait until the November veto session to get their rate hike.

– Amanda Vinicky.

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