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Lawmakers override Quinn veto; Governor thanks Citizen Action/Illinois for fighting for consumers

Date: 
10/27/2011

From the Chicago Tribune, October 26:

Lawmakers override Quinn veto

smart grid becomes law

By Julie Wernau | Tribune reporter

Illinois legislators voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of smart-grid legislation, paving the way for ratepayers to fund a massive buildout of smart grid technology in Illinois.

The Senate voted 36-19 to override the bill, followed minutes later by the House, which voted 74-42 to override the bill.

House members voted Wednesday and Senators Tuesday to adopt changes to the smart grid legislation, which cleared the way for legislators who voted against the original bill to change their votes under the compromise.

"I think people recognize there's been a lot of work done since May," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) said. "People understand that this is a time for leadership. We have terrible unemployment in this state."

McCarthy (D-Orland Park) has been fighting to see ComEd's smart grid bill become a reality since the very beginning.

Quinn had vowed to fight passage of the legislation with the help of state Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"The consumers of Illinois are deeply disappointed in the General Assembly's action today to give Commonwealth Edison and Ameren guaranteed annual rate increases for each of the next 10 years...and so am I," Quinn said in a statement.

"The fight for consumers against unfair utility practices will go on and will never end as long as I am Governor," Quinn said. "I am grateful for the fierce determination of our consumer allies in this fight. Thank you to AARP, the Citizens Utility Board, Citizen Action/Illinois, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Lt. Governor Sheila Simon."

The original legislation outlined cost increases to consumers amounting to $3 a month in ComEd's territory to pay for smart grid and other infrastructure improvements that supporters say will help consumers monitor and manage electricity use and help ComEd more quickly pinpoint outages and make repairs.

"Today, the General Assembly took a historic step towards creating a stronger Illinois that will help us deliver more value and better service to the 5.4 million customers we proudly serve," said ComEd president and COO Anne Pramaggiore. "We thank our supporters in the General Assembly for their leadership."

Opponents, many of whom support a buildout of smart grid, have said the utilities are using the issue of smart grid as a "Trojan horse" that is being used to permanently alter the way electric rates are decided. The bill includes regulatory changes that would set ComEd's return on equity according to a formula, and allow the utility to ask for a raise from the Illinois Commerce Commission on a more frequent basis.

ComEd says the changes are necessary in order to plan for long-term investments like smart grid. Opponents say it is an excuse to pad its bottom line. The changes would decrease regulatory lag and mean millions more to ComEd in revenue each year.

"Most of the groups are not opposed to smart grid. They're opposed to how we want to pay for it," McCarthy said.