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Rate Hikes Approved for Chicago Electric Utility Pending Likely Veto

The Illinois state House approved a spending plan for Gov. Pat Quinn that included permission for Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), the state’s largest electric utility, to raise utility rates. ComEd requested the rate hikes to offset investments in its power grid.

The bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, said the rate increase would result in at least 2,000 new jobs and bring both ‘cutting edge technology’ and ‘outstanding reliability’ to ComEd’s aging power grid.

The legislation would increase ComEd’s electric rates by a guaranteed minimum of 2.5 percent each year for the next two years to help compensate the utility for investing in a planned $1.5 billion modernization of its power grid, including providing for the installation of ‘smart meters’ in all homes and businesses.

Since the increases would be assessed to the electricity delivery charge, the rate hikes would affect all electric customers in ComEd’s market, regardless if they buy their electricity from the utility or from an alternative electric supplier.

The rate hikes were opposed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, AARP Illinois, the Citizens Utility Board and Gov. Quinn, who has promised to veto the legislation. Madigan said the bill amounted to a ‘blank check’ for ComEd since it provided for minimum, not maximum, rate increases.

Although the House approved the rate increases by a vote of 67-47, the measure needed to receive 71 votes in order to override a veto by Quinn, potentially making the bill’s move to the Senate for confirmation a moot point.

“We believe [the House vote is] a positive development,” Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said since the House vote failed to hit a veto-proof majority.

Sources

House OKs ComEd Hikes, but Quinn Veto Possible, Chicago Sun-Times, May 31, 2011.

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