Nitkin: Constellation has been running advertisements that include that information. Check the papers for those ads.
Susan, Towson: How has People's Counsel Patricia [A.] Smith been able to hold onto her job? She's a non-factor in electric rate negotiations, she has alienated legislators, and her behavior has been publicly called manic. At one point, the legislature wanted to fire her. What happened?
Nitkin: The people's counsel is appointed by the governor. We've heard some criticism of her performance. There are other lawmakers, however -- Del. Herb McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican, for one -- who believe Smith has researched the topics effectively and presented well-reasoned arguments and motions in the rate-increase proceedings.
Smith has told our reporters she believes her views and her office's work have not been accurately portrayed in the media. Still, the concerns about her office's effectiveness persist. Sun reporter Kelly Brewington wrote a profile of Smith during the recently concluded legislative session.
Ralph Brave, Baltimore: David, why has the legislative leadership not yet called a special session on the [Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.] rate hike? What are the prospects that they will do so? Thank you.
Nitkin: General Assembly leaders said Monday that they would hold a special session, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. joined the call.
There are practical and political reasons why the General Assembly had not done so earlier.
Conventional wisdom holds that lawmakers should not convene special sessions unless they have worked out a general agreement ahead of time on solutions to problems. Special sessions cost money (around $50,000 a day) and draw attention to the Assembly. So, if lawmakers come back and begin squabbling, they'll take a hit in popularity -- just months before the election. They only want to return if they know what they are going to do. A plan or consensus on an electric rate solution is only now beginning to emerge.
Politically, if the Assembly reconvenes, lawmakers in effect take ownership of the issue. Many Democratic lawmakers would rather let Ehrlich, a Republican, be perceived as the leader responsible for the rate increases.
Diane Xu, Woodstock: With regard to the BGE rate issue, could the Public Service Commission [have] controlled the high rate if they want[ed] to?
Nitkin: Former PSC chairwoman Catherine Riley has said there are several steps the regulatory agency could have taken to control rates.
In a letter to The Sun in March, Riley described how the deregulation law gave the current commission chances to intervene and lower rates. "The PSC retained its full power and authority under the new law to oversee and reject any bid [for power] it found not to be 'just and reasonable,'" Riley wrote.
The current PSC, she wrote, "could have sought to change, rescind, amend, expand or replace" previous commission orders issued when she was chairwoman.
Michael, Baltimore: Reading the circuit judges' opinion in the case [Baltimore Mayor Martin] O'Malley brought, it seems as if the 72 percent increase happens unless there is a subsidy from the [planned Constellation] merger. If O'Malley scares Florida Power and Light away, won't he have killed the "golden goose?"
Nitkin: State Sen. E.J. Pipkin and others think there are other sources of money that could provide consumer relief, such as retrieving the so-called "stranded costs," or money paid by consumers to BGE for an anticipated decline in value in power plants that did not come to pass, and crediting the money to consumers.