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Who Benefits From Electricity Deregulation?

Oct. 6, 1999

Who Benefits From Electricity Deregulation?

Public Citizen Testifies for Consumers and the Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental and consumer protections must be included in legislation if electric utilities are to be deregulated, Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen?s Texas office, testified today before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Smith spoke in reference to H.R. 2944, an electricity deregulation measure that Smith said falls far short of providing protections to Americans and the environment.

Smith, who recently participated in a similar debate over electricity deregulation in Texas, recommended that Congress allow cost-effective aggregation so that small consumers have a fair chance at benefits and have the ability to prevent monopolistic practices by power companies.

Retail electric utility deregulation so far has benefited only large users of electricity, not residential consumers and small businesses. Opt-out municipal aggregation, or Community Choice, as contained in bills introduced by Reps. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, (H.R. 2734) and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, (H.R. 2645), would allow a municipality or other political subdivision to negotiate an electricity contract for all consumers, including businesses.

“Electricity deregulation legislation must prevent monopolies and give consumers the tools to fight market power concentration,” Smith said.

Smith strongly recommended that Congress encourage the development of renewable power sources that do not pollute or degrade natural resources and energy efficiency technologies that can increase reliability and save money. He also called for an end to making exceptions to pollution standards for old power plants, which are a major source of the pollutants that form smog, contribute to global warming, cause acid rain and endanger health.

“This bill shortchanges consumers and the environment,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project.