A belated offer of help for BGE Holding company: Pressure on Glendening, Miller leads to pledge of assistance for local electric utility.


THE governor says he will "lead the charge" to let Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. form a holding company. The Senate president also has agreed to push for emergency legislation when the Maryland General Assembly meets in January.

What took them so long?

Each man bears responsibility for the defeat of this bill in April. Gov. Parris N. Glendening stood by silently as BGE's competitors turned this modest measure into a bill deregulating the electric power industry.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. helped BGE's rivals. He rebuffed pleas to strip the bill of burdensome amendments and insisted the two matters be linked. That effectively killed the measure -- despite the strong backing of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.

But pressure has been building on both Mr. Glendening and Mr. Miller to change their positions. James T. Brady, the governor's former business development secretary, loudly criticized Mr. Glendening for his unwillingness to help BGE. Business leaders made their displeasure clear, too.

Even worse, BGE had started the process of moving its incorporation from Maryland to Delaware, where it can legally form a holding company. Such a shift would have proved enormously embarrassing to Mr. Glendening and Mr. Miller. It loomed as a nasty campaign issue in the primary and general elections.

Maryland is the only state in the nation that places such a restriction on its utilities. Allowing BGE to form a holding company would give the company greater flexibility to compete. This is going to prove essential as BGE gradually loses its monopoly on electric power in the Baltimore area over the next four years.

Legislators and the governor will have to deal with utility deregulation next year as a separate matter. That is how it should be. This is a highly complicated issue that could have a rTC major impact on BGE's future electric power rates. It deserves careful scrutiny free of political deal-making.

We hope Mr. Miller, in particular, does not throw up new objections to BGE's efforts to make a smooth transition to a competitive environment.

BGE has a long history of service to the region. It has given customers some of the lowest electricity rates in this part of the country. The company didn't deserve the shoddy treatment it received last session in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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