Coalition wants hearings on deregulation resumed

PSC will consider motion today from BGE's competitors

Utilities

May 11, 1999|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Public Service Commission will consider a motion from a coalition of competitors of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. this morning to continue deregulation hearings despite a tentative agreement between BGE and many of the parties in the case.

The hearings would determine key issues, including a request by BGE's holding company for cost recovery, price protection for customers, and a request by the People's Counsel for a rate reduction.

On Friday, Constellation Energy Group Inc., BGE's holding company, said the PSC had granted its motion to suspend the hearings on deregulation.

Yesterday, however, the Mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association, a New Jersey-based group of retail electricity suppliers that hope to serve residential and business communities in Maryland, petitioned the PSC to rescind Friday's order.

"Even with a tentative settlement, we still need procedural safeguards, such as hearings and more fact-finding to make sure all parties, especially BGE, comply with the law," said Gary Alexander, a lobbyist representing MAPSA.

The hearings had been scheduled to begin this Friday.

Constellation said it had sought the suspension because the additional time should allow a final settlement to be reached and given to the PSC by June 15.

The nature of the settlement most likely will not become public until near that time, said Michael Delaney, a Constellation spokesman.

In the meantime, parties are prohibited from categorizing the settlement as good or bad, said Alexander.

Today's hearing is the first time the PSC is dealing with a deregulation matter since Gov. Parris N. Glendening recently signed into law legislation enabling Marylanders to shop for electricity, starting next year.

Decisions made by the PSC -- a five-member commission that oversees telephone, natural gas and electric service in Maryland -- may determine whether the new law is seen as a success or failure.

"We're confident we'll have a settlement. The parties have agreed to agree," said Delaney, of Constellation.

"From a strategic point of view, I don't know why [MAPSA] would want hearings," he said. "Everyone has been working toward customer choice and deregulation. I don't know if there are some sticking points now or not."

The Maryland Industrial Group, which is made up of 24 of BGE's largest business customers, said it prefers a settlement over hearings.

"We support efforts to try to achieve a final settlement," said Allan Malester, the group's attorney. "It's in the interest of all BGE customers."

Pepco, one of Maryland's four investor-owned utilities, has proposed a settlement under which it would sell all its power plants. The company pledged to share any profits from the sale with its customers.

BGE has said it is not willing to sell its electricity-generating assets.

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