Sparks Expected in Utilities Deregulation Talks
Thompson, Don, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Don Thompson Daily Herald State Government Writer
SPRINGFIELD - State lawmakers hope to reach agreement by mid-May on a sweeping deregulation of Illinois' electric utilities. But they have yet to resolve the stickiest issues, including making sure consumers aren't left out in the cold.
The most public manifestation of the complicated, esoteric debate was ComEd's announcement that it will shut down its Zion nuclear plant as it anticipates the heavy competition that will come with deregulation. Decommissioning nuclear plants - and divvying up the costs - is one of the unresolved issues.
Up to 70 representatives of utilities, unions and consumer groups have been meeting several hours most days for the last three weeks trying to reach consensus, said Republican state Rep. Vincent Persico of Glen Ellyn, who chairs the House deregulation committee.
They've been successful in preliminary areas, but the tough stuff starts next week, he said.
"They haven't gotten yet to some of the most important things from a consumer's point of view, which is what are rates going to be and what are consumers' bills going to look like," said Pat Clark, associate director of the Consumer Utility Board. "All classes of customers have to benefit from the outset. It's really meaningless if you go through with all this and customers don't get rate reductions. …