'Re-regulation' by O'Malley shuns seizing power plants

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION AND SIGHTSEEING

March 08, 2009|By JAY HANCOCK | JAY HANCOCK,jay.hancock@baltsun.com

It has been clear for years that Maryland would need to build regulated power plants if private investors didn't build unregulated ones first. Gov. Martin O'Malley's "re-regulation" legislation, proposed last week, merely formalizes the option.

More significant is what he did not embrace: Seizing the former BGE and Pepco generation plants, compensating their present owners (Constellation Energy and Mirant) and billing electric customers for the cost. That would have driven bills even higher, put customers on the hook for environmental upgrades, killed Constellation's plan to add a third nuclear unit at Calvert Cliffs and forced customers to pay for eventually decommissioning the first two.

Seizing valuable assets owned by large corporate citizens would also send a troubling signal about Maryland's respect for property rights. Terrible as it was, electricity deregulation was a deal made by the state, codified in law and confirmed under the settlement O'Malley made with Constellation. If you sell your car for a lousy price in the real world, you can't just call the repo man when you change your mind.

Nothing in O'Malley's plan would prevent a privately financed electricity plant in addition to the one proposed for Calvert Cliffs.

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