Maryland appeals court lifts electricity stay

Electricity deregulation in Maryland can proceed now that the Court of Appeals of Maryland Thursday lifted a stay granted to potential competitors late last month. Would-be electricity providers succeeded in getting the court to stay deregulation for consumers of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., a Constellation Energy Group unit, on June 30. Competition and new lower rates were slated to begin on July 1 for those consumers.

Jul 20th, 2000


Electricity deregulation in Maryland can proceed now that the Court of Appeals of Maryland Thursday lifted a stay granted to potential competitors late last month.

Would-be electricity providers succeeded in getting the court to stay deregulation for consumers of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., a Constellation Energy Group unit, on June 30. Competition and new lower rates were slated to begin on July 1 for those consumers.

Electricity competitors claimed that the default price charged by BGE and approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) was simply too low for any meaningful competition to take place.

The default price or standard offer price is what the utility charges consumers who don�t switch suppliers and remain with the utility. If that price is too low, few competitors can enter the market and offer alternative service, argue the appellants in the case, Mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association (MAPSA).

The deregulation agreement had been successfully negotiated over a 2-year period by parties most affected by the introduction of competition into the service territory of BGE, says Chrys Wilson, commission spokesperson.

The parties signing on to the agreement included the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Office of the People�s Counsel, the Maryland Energy Administration, Maryland Industrial Group, Maryland Retailers Association, and Enron Corp., one of the nation's big electricity marketers, she says.

While deregulation can proceed for now, the appeals court reversed and remanded the case to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City for further proceedings. The court also concluded that MAPSA has legal standing to challenge the Maryland Public Service Commission order and can seek further judicial review.

"When the circuit court reviews the merits of MAPSA's appeal, we are optimistic the PSC order will be affirmed because it followed the Maryland Legislature's electric deregulation law by establishing a fair framework for deregulating the electricity market. It is both sound and well reasoned," said Christian H. Poindexter, Constellation Energy Group chairman.

The commission is �pleased� with the appeals court decision because it enables the BGE residential rate payers to receive their 6.5% rate reduction as promised in the original settlement agreement, says Wilson.

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