Two bills to change the way electric utilities rates are set in Maryland are winding their way through the General Assembly in the final days of the legislative session with little public scrutiny. HB653/SB572 remove consumer protections in the rate setting process. Both bills have drawn opposition from a diverse group including the Public Service Commission, the Peoples Counsel and AARP (“Senate must slow down the charge to upend the way Md. regulates utility rates,” March 19).
In an unusual display of unity all five members of the PSC testified against the proposals. PSC chair Jason Stanek said this legislation, “has far reaching and uncertain implications on the commission’s existing authority to set just and reasonable utility rates Maryland”.
The People’s Counsel testified that the “legislation gives give too much power to utilities to dictate their own rates without any assurances the new rates would benefit consumers.”
As president of AARP MD, we are concerned what such a drastic change would mean for Maryland’s older citizens on fixed incomes. By upending the regulatory authority of the PSC, the bills skews regulatory proceedings to favor utilities at the expense of consumers.
The Apartment and Office Building Association opposed the bills saying that “they limit the factors the commission may consider in a rate case”.
The two bills are among the most heavily lobbied in Annapolis, according to a recent article in Maryland Matters, an online newspaper. These bills “are represented by a Dream Team of lobbyists who have ties to every influential lawmaker in Annapolis.”
AARP is urging the General Assembly to vote consumer interests and defeat HB653/SB572.
Jim Campbell, Baltiomore
The writer is state president of AARP Maryland.