June 29, 1999
Ohio Community Choice Shows Congress the Way
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation to deregulate Ohio?s retail electricity markets, which has been approved by the state?s legislature and is awaiting Gov. Bob Taft?s signature, features a ground-breaking provision to protect residential consumers and opens the door for efforts to pass such protections at the federal level.
Modeled after a provision in Massachusetts’ 1997 electric restructuring law, the Ohio legislation allows cities, towns, villages and counties to work together to purchase electric power to secure the best rates — or buy the cleanest electricity — for residents and businesses. This provision, called Community Choice, gives groups of residential consumers and small businesses the same buying power as large industrial customers, and with it a fair chance at savings.
“Making deregulated markets truly competitive, and truly beneficial to consumers, is not a left or right-wing proposition, as Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature illustrated,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “It is simply a matter of setting aside the special interests of entrenched monopolies and establishing new markets that will work for everyone, including residents and small businesses. Community Choice should be part of any federal legislation.”
Municipal and county officials from more than 30 local governments testified before the Ohio legislature, passed resolutions or signed onto letters asking the legislature to support Community Choice.
“Now Community Choice is an apple pie issue in Ohio,” said Matthew Patrick, an early Community Choice proponent and a local official of Falmouth, Mass. “Few will openly oppose it, and most would like to take credit for what is obviously a pro-consumer measure.”
Said Hauter, “The bipartisan vote in Ohio reflects growing recognition that California’s each-man-for-himself deregulation model is not working for the vast majority of consumers. More than a year after California’s anti-Community Choice law went into effect, fewer than 1 percent of consumers have switched electricity providers. It also reflects a growing awareness by mayors and city councilors nationally that local governments have a critical role to play in making deregulated electricity markets responsive to residents and small businesses.”