Uh, about that affordable energy plan ...


May 25, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Baltimore Gas and Electric customers will open their whopping light bills soon and ask: "How did this happen - a 70 percent increase in utility rates?"

If they say it in the style of an ominous campaign commercial voiceover, it might take them back to a happier time, when candidate Martin O'Malley was promising in a TV ad to "stop the rate hikes."

You can still see the ad on www.martinomalley.com, under the heading "Big Bills."

"How did this happen - a 72 percent increase in utility rates?" it begins. "Costing consumers and seniors while energy companies make record profits. The special interests already have their governor. We need one of our own. Martin O'Malley. Taking on BG&E to stop the rate hikes. A detailed plan to make energy more affordable."

His detailed plan left out this nugget: BGE bills will be about as high as they would have been under Bob Ehrlich.

The state utility commission approved a 50 percent increase in electricity rates this week - on top of the 15 percent increase the General Assembly approved last summer. A 50 percent rise in something that has already been raised 15 percent works out to a total increase of 72.5 percent - more than the "shocking 72 percent" candidate O'Malley warned about in a release headlined, "LEADERSHIP THAT WORKS: Defending Maryland Against Rising Energy Prices."

The actual increase is expected to be about 69 percent. But consumers can credit a dip in energy prices when BGE was buying four or five months ago, not their new governor, for that minuscule break.

"Like every Marylander and BGE customer, I am deeply disappointed that we could not do better," O'Malley told reporters yesterday, adding that over the long haul, consumers will be better served by his PSC.

O'Malley blamed the outcome on "four years of non-regulation" under Ehrlich. "I wish we could have undone the damage of the last four years in the past four months. But we tried, and we looked under every rock."

So the guy who ran with the slogan "Better Isn't Good Enough" is trying something new: "No Better Isn't My Fault."

Don't insult me, but make me an offer

Ed Hale's waterfront Canton penthouse has been on the market since February 2005, when it was listed for $2.5 million. The asking price dropped long ago to $1.75 million.

Isn't that an indication that the price is still too high, The Sun's Gadi Dechter asked while interviewing Hale the other day at Towson University, where Hale was receiving an honorary degree.

"That's a matter of opinion," Hale said. "I could be insulted by that, but I'm not."

Moments later, the wheeler-dealer signaled that he was willing to haggle.

"If somebody came in, a qualified buyer, and said, `We're going to take you out for a million-six,' I'd go tomorrow."

Connect the dots

From Wonkette.com, under the headline "dept. of unneighborly behavior": "If you live in a row house connected to the row house of ... Baltimore Examiner editor Frank Keegan and so much cigarette smoke is seeping into your house that your kids are choking on the fumes, it's probably not a good idea to pound on Keegan's door yelling about the problem ... because Keegan will (allegedly) pull a shotgun on your entire family." ... Even funnier, the statement from Keegan's boss, Examiner Publisher Michael Beatty: "His [Keegan's] employment will not be effected [sic] unless warranted by future events or findings." That's what you get for putting your copy desk in Virginia. ... Looks like Chris Dodd has picked up more than campaign workers from Gov. O'Malley. The Connecticut senator and presidential hopeful has been holding "kitchen table" meetings around the country. Kitchen table tours were part of O'Malley's schtick when he was running for governor. O'Malley's campaign came up with that when Hari Sevugan was communications director. These days, he's Dodd's national deputy communications director. There are other O'Malley alums, plus veterans from rival Doug Duncan's campaign, on Dodd's team.

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