Maryland energy regulators on Thursday considered proposed regulations that would set reliability standards for the state's utilities.

The proposed standards would reduce the average length of outages statewide by 90 minutes and the frequency of outages by 24 percent by the end of 2015. They also would set benchmarks for tree trimming and telephone call response times, as well as deadlines for restoring power during normal and inclement weather.

The Maryland Public Service Commission would have the authority to impose fines if utilities failed to meet the standards. Any penalties incurred by utilities could not be passed on to ratepayers.

BGE and other utilities raised concerns about the proposed regulations' impact on their operations and cautioned that the standards could cause consumers' bills to rise. The Maryland Office of People's Counsel and other parties, including AARP Maryland, also presented their positions on the proposed standards.

Spurred by consumer complaints and prolonged outages after major storms in recent years, the PSC last spring established a working group to craft new rules establishing standards to help ensure reliable service. This year the Maryland General Assembly also passed legislation that specified language for the regulations.

The Public Service Commission is expected to continue hearings on Friday. It will consider whether to publish the proposed standards in the Maryland Register for public comment.

Hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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