O'Malley Promises Renewed Effort to Re-Regulate Utilities
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said this morning that his administration plans to make re-regulation of Maryland's energy markets a priority during the next session of the General Assembly.
He also took a swipe at a possible $87 million payout to Constellation Energy Group CEO Mayo A. Shattuck as a condition of the proposed purchase by Electricite de France of Constellation's nuclear assets.
The comments came as the Board of Public Works approved $4.6 million in consulting contracts for the Public Service Commission, Maryland's utility regulator. The money is paying energy experts who are fighting federal regulators to lower wholesale electricity prices and helping the PSC negotiate the terms of complex Constellation deal, which it must approve.
The O'Malley administration and some General Assembly lawmakers are exploring whether the PSC can demand some rate relief for electricity customers as part of the deal.
"I want you to retain whatever expertise we need," O'Malley told PSC Chairman Douglas Nazarian, "so the people do not get worked over by the energy industry...We told the people of our state that we expect the Public Service Commission to fight everyday for the public."
Electricity prices shot up when rate caps imposed during the deregulation process were lifted. The governor, facing reelection next year, has won some rate relief but high bills remain a political problem for him. A bill to partially return Maryland to a regulated market passed the state Senate this winter, but stalled in the House of Delegates.
The PSC is expected to decide next week whether the EDF purchase would give the company enough control over Baltimore Gas & Electric, the utility owned by Constellation, to allow regulators to demand givebacks.
"We need to make sure that we are not being blindfolded by Constellation Energy," O'Malley said. .
June 3, 2009; 2:31 PM ET
Categories: Lisa Rein
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