Volume 14, Issue 18 ~ May 4 - May 10, 2006


Our Governor and the Public Dis-Service Commission

Maybe it’s because gas prices are soaring amid reports of record profits by oil companies.

Perhaps it has to do with the secret votes, the no-comments and emails between our chief utility regulator and his pal, the chief utility lobbyist.

It could just be the disappointment of being let down by our political leaders.

Whatever the reason, every Marylander we talk to in the BG&E service area is outraged about the pending 72 percent electric rate “negotiated” last week by Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

There’s a confusing rate deferral plan that requires interest and a $19 monthly fee and offers little relief. As one Marylander put it in the sole public hearing permitted on this issue, “Cutting off my hands versus cutting off my feet is not a choice.”

We understood that rates needed some rise given the recent rate cap and increasing energy costs. But we also understand artful politics and the art of negotiation, and on both scores Marylanders are feeling let down.

Not long ago, Maryland held a huge bargaining chip: the last word in the drive by Constellation Energy, BG&E’s parent company, to merge with a Florida corporation.

But now, after these negotiations, it’s Constellation with that chip, declaring that when their merger goes through, they’ll grant us rate relief that amounts to an insulting $4 a month.

Did anybody tell the governor and the Public Service Commission he appointed that BG&E is a regulated monopoly?

Speaking of monopolies, BG&E says it needs to charge this much because of the price of the power it buys. But the company refuses to say where that power is coming from and whether it’s Constellation, which reported $623 million in profit last year, selling to its own subsidiary at a jacked-up price.

The more we learn, the more we understand the outrage across Maryland. We’ll be hearing it throughout this election year, and some of it is directed at the General Assembly for failing to complete a better deal before skipping town last month.

The rate hike debacle proved to be a test of political leadership, not to mention a consequential episode in Maryland public policy.

It was a time when we could have used a populist like Huey Long, the Louisiana governor last century who, as Randy Newman sings, “took on the Standard Oil men and whipped their (behind).”

Rather than Huey Long of Louisiana, this show looks to have been run by Baby Huey of Duckville.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.