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Compromise may have been reached on energy bill  

Ohio’s movers talk over weekend

A weekend flurry of phone calls between some of the state’s most powerful political and business figures may have set the stage for compromise on Gov. Ted Strickland’s utility and energy bill.

Hearings on the latest and most controversial version of the bill get under way today in Columbus before the House Public Utilities Committee, where critics are expected to offer a raft of amendments.

Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander, praised last week by the Republican leadership for her contributions to the bill, is expected to offer amendments today.

Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted issued an 11-page defense of the legislation late Saturday in answer to a chorus of objections from industrial users and to Strickland’s Friday afternoon bomb that he would veto the bill if it reached his desk as Husted wrote it.

The bottom line issues:

Whether to allow the state’s utilities to partially slip the reins of state regulation and base their retail rates on wholesale markets in exchange for allowing outside power companies to compete for their customers.

The governor said the bill as written would allow FirstEnergy Corp. to immediately jump to market-base rates. Industrial users said the bill would allow the Akron-based utility to become an unregulated monopoly.

In his weekend memo, Husted argued that his bill requires FirstEnergy and all of the state’s utilities to file a traditional rate plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. If the company and the PUCO could not agree, the company could file for a market-rate plan, he said, but the PUCO would have the muscle to force FirstEnergy to ac cept whichever method produced the cheapest con sumer rates.

Whether to re quire utilities to immediately begin investing in power from renewable technologies such as wind and solar – without regard to how high that might drive up rates.

Strickland wanted to give utilities until 2015 to begin building or set limits on how high rates would be allowed to increase due to wind farms, solar arrays and other advanced technologies.

He is now ready to accept a House plan to ease into wind and solar projects next year.

But the industrial coalition and the Ohio Senate still want limits on rate increases caused by solar and wind farms.

In his written response, Husted said he was open to negotiate a cap.

Husted seemed shocked at the veto threat, saying in an interview that he had run many of his ideas past Alan Schriber, chairman of the PUCO, whom he believed spoke for the administration.

Schriber partially confirmed that. “Notwithstanding the fact that I have very limited access to proposed drafts of the legislation, I had some very open discussions with members of the speaker’s staff,” he said in an interview Sunday.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said a number of people spoke for the administration in dealing with the House on the issue. He said Strickland now hoped for “productive dialogue.”

By John Funk
Plain Dealer Reporter

The Plain Dealer

14 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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