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ComEd: Rate Hike May Be Lower than Expected


From Fox News Chicago:

ComEd: Rate Hike May Be Lower than Expected

Updated: Monday, 31 Oct 2011, 6:39 AM CDT
Published : Sunday, 30 Oct 2011, 9:59 PM CDT

By Mike Flannery, Fox Chicago News

Chicago - Fox Chicago News has learned that ComEd lobbyists are telling legislators who voted for a new rate increase law that the utility will seek less money than it previously wanted.

One reason: if Gov. Quinn signs a so-called trailer bill to the rate increase law, ComEd’s guaranteed annual profit will shrink by about 3 per cent.

Meantime, some lawmakers worry that their vote for ComEd could cost them at the polls next year.

Some anxious legislators have already told the American Assn. of Retired Persons that they regret voting last week for the rate increase law.

The state senate, without a vote to spare, overrode Gov. Quinn’s veto of the proposal.

Robert Gallo, AARP’s Illinois state director was infuriated by the vote to override.

The new law virtually guarantees that ComEd will be able to raise its electric rates every year for the next 10 years. Gov. Quinn and others fear electric rates could more than double in a decade.

Gallo claimed some legislators have called to confess they made a mistake.

“I think some of them are fairly nervous,” Gallo said. “

There are some competitive races out there. And we've heard from some of those individuals.

And we're getting some apologies right now from several elected officials, basically back-pedaling on why they made the decision they made.

And when you start to hear apologies or excuses or justifications, that tells you there are still some folks who are still a little uncomfortable out there.”

Sources told Fox Chicago News that former Chicago mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins is already using the ComEd rate increase law against West Side State Sen. Annazette Collins.

Watkins is seeking to unseat Collins in the upcoming March 20th primary.

Another showdown over the ComEd issue is shaping up Downstate, East Moline's Sen. Mike Jacobs, chief sponsor of the ComEd law, faces a primary challenger likely to use the issue.

Activists plan to focus on the state senate because that is where the next battle may be fought in the war over utility rates.

The senate will vote on whether to confirm or reject a replacement for Sherman J. Elliott on the Illinois Commerce Commission. Elliott’s departure will leave the ICC evenly divided between two members generally seen as more pro-utility and two others generally seen as more pro-consumer.

The new appointee would be a tie-breaker.

While the new law stripped the ICC of much of its previous power regarding utility rate increases, some want the ICC to be aggressively assertive about the power it retains.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center’s Howard Learner said, “The ICC could ask ComEd to put the proceeds of any rate increase into a ‘lockbox,’ to ensure the money’s really spent on the Smart Grid.”

Among the justifications offered for guaranteeing ComEd a decade of rate increases was that the money would go for computerizing and modernizing its transmission system

Liberal activist William McNary, mentioned in the past a possible ICC commissioner, wants the governor to appoint a tough consumer advocate.

And he wants senators to confirm Quinn’s nominee, or answer to voters.

“We look forward to elections,” McNary said. “We love elections, because it gives the people a chance to make their issues and concerns known to legislators.”

A spokeswoman for Quinn said he had no comment on the upcoming ICC vacancy, nor on when or whether he’ll sign the trailer bill.

There was no comment from a ComEd spokesman Sunday night, though he said the utility may respond Monday.