- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

A Maryland lawmaker is calling for a summit to evaluate the utility rate increases due later this week and has filed legislation to re-regulate the state’s energy industry.

Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, said yesterday that he will ask fellow lawmakers to return to Annapolis to review Maryland energy laws, while Baltimore Gas and Electric customers prepare for a 50 percent rate increase due Friday.

“I would like to do this as soon as possible,” he said. “This is where you sacrifice, this is where you’re a public servant. There’s been a lack of leadership on this issue in the General Assembly.”

Mr. McDonough wants to assemble a group of advisers on energy deregulation to address the lawmakers. He wants the summit held in the House chamber and taped by Maryland Public Television, as are key General Assembly hearings.

He plans to send letters to his 187 colleagues in the House and Senate this week.

The Maryland Public Service Commission approved the increase last week after holding public hearings since last month.

In the agency’s report, the commissioners acknowledged having little legal ground to set prices because of a deregulation plan passed by state lawmakers in 1999 that capped rates.

“The commission determines that, based on the facts and the law presented in this proceeding, it has little choice but to approve the proposed increase,” the commissioners wrote.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, campaigned heavily last year on promises of rate relief and apologized to energy customers last week, saying the commission was unable to fulfill those promises.

Mr. O’Malley could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Members of the commission also could not be reached, though Chairman Steven B. Larsen has said the commission will consider re-regulation.

Delegate Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat who is also running for mayor, said state leaders could call a special session and find an immediate solution to the rate increase, but their political will has evaporated.

“Only the Maryland legislature can bring relief,” she said yesterday. “Whether you favor the concept or not, we see that the plan put in place has been a bad one. It’s going to be devastating.”

Miss Carter said she wants lawmakers to reinstall the rate cap until they can find a solution to the energy costs.

Mr. McDonough also pre-filed a series of energy reforms called the Energy Consumer Protection Act.

The proposal would allow private institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, to build their own power plants. It also would create consumer protections and authorize a study group to consider a state takeover of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.

“I’m the guy who gets a phone call from a 78-year-old widow who has to choose between paying for her medication and paying her bills,” Mr. McDonough said, adding that she and others do not deserve “petty politics.”

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