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Op-ed

Merger doesn't do enough to help Marylanders

By Maryland law, for the merger of Exelon and Constellation Energy to be permissible, it must be shown to cause no harm, and to benefit Baltimore Gas & Electric ratepayers and the public interest. Because, to date, Exelon has yet to offer a proposal that sufficiently meets these three thresholds, my administration cannot support the merger at this time.

While the state of Maryland stands to lose 600 jobs post-merger, Constellation executives stand to make $34 million off the transaction. Furthermore, as we seek to protect our families in difficult economic times, some strategic decisions currently made by BGE executives in Maryland will now be decided 700 miles away in Chicago. Even with the best of intentions, executives out of state may not understand our challenges or even care about our state's larger energy goals.

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In Maryland, we have clearly defined goals for protecting consumers and securing a more sustainable energy future, among them: to reduce energy consumption 15 percent by 2015; to increase Maryland's renewable energy portfolio to 20 percent by 2022; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, and to always put Maryland's families first as we make decisions that impact our quality of life and our shared future.

To protect our progress and advance toward these goals, I propose that the state Public Service Commission establish the following requisites:

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•To protect Maryland families, Exelon should be required to increase its contribution to cost-saving energy efficiency initiatives and initiatives designed to protect lower-income Marylanders;

•To protect consumers, the PSC should strengthen so called "ring-fencing" provisions that would prevent Exelon from turning BGE into a cash cow at the expense of reliable energy for Maryland families;

•As a safeguard for the public's interest, the PSC should retain jurisdictional rights to spin off BGE, should the merger be found to harm ratepayers at a future date; and

•To advance Maryland's goals for cleaner air and a more reliable energy supply, the PSC should require Exelon to make a more substantial and impactful investment in wind, solar and biomass energy than the amount proposed in their most recent offer. With solar installations already creating more than 1,000 new jobs in our state, and hundreds more jobs supported by our land-based wind projects, the investments we make in greener energy are important for both Maryland jobs and for a better energy future.

In the past five years, by working together to advance the public interest, this administration has been able to deliver results for Maryland ratepayers. Through the largest settlement of its kind in American history, we recovered $2 billion for Maryland families. In winning a major victory with federal regulators, we ended practices that added $85 million per year in costs to our energy bills. By successfully pushing to strike down rules that were allowing generators to charge above-market prices, we saved $225 million for Maryland families.

And after leading the charge for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (the nation's first cap-and-trade system for greenhouse emissions), we've been able to lower energy bills for more than 100,000 households; invest in energy audits and retrofits for more than 4,000 low-income apartments and 350 farms; and reduce more than 5,000 cars' worth of carbon emissions into our atmosphere.

My administration will continue to advance the public's interest in our work for a better energy future for Maryland.

Martin O'Malley is the governor of Maryland. His e-mail is governor@gov.state.md.us.


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