Regulation Redux?

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

One issue that’s moving through the General Assembly this year involves our legislators considering whether they should repeal, in part or perhaps in whole, the electric utility deregulation law they passed in 1999. That law’s hope — a retail electric market in which consumers would choose among competing suppliers vying for their business — has never become a reality here in Virginia (or, for that matter, in any of the other dozen-and-a-half states that passed similar deregulation laws about the same time).

Virginia ’s electric cooperatives have expressed concerns about deregulation for several years now, to legislators, to our member-consumers, and to the general public. Most experts now agree that consumers would be better served by doing away with deregulation and returning to a system more like that used in the past, with cost-of-service-based rates. In short, by regulation redux; that is, by returning to at least a hybrid version of re-regulation.

This editorial is being written on January 12, as this bill is still being drafted. By February 6, or about the time you will receive this magazine, the bill — if it is still alive — will be emerging from the House of Delegates or the Virginia Senate, or perhaps both, and moving if needed toward a reconciliation between the versions passed by the two bodies. If reconciled and passed by a floor vote of each legislative body, Governor Tim Kaine will then consider the bill, and either sign, amend or veto it.

Because of the General Assembly’s relatively short sessions that alternate every-other-year between 45 (this year) and 60 days, the road from Idea to Law is fairly short. But make no mistake: This road’s limited length is not traveled easily or without a considerable amount of input from interested citizens and a considerable amount of thought by legislators.

Virginia ’s 13 electric cooperatives are at the table as this bill is being developed, and we will be vigilant in ensuring that any bill protects your interests if — or, as — it becomes law. Delivering the most environmentally responsible, reliable power at the lowest possible cost has always been your cooperative’s mantra, our top job, and our main focus.

You’re both the owner of the business and the customer. We never lose sight of that fact, and it guides us in everything we do, whether at the State Capitol in Richmond , at the U.S. Capitol in Washington , D.C. , or back home in the communities we’re proud to live in and serve.

To stay up-to-date on this issue, please refer to the 2007 Virginia State Legislative Guide pullout included in last month’s issue. Your delegate or senator would be glad to hear from you and to provide you with more information. You may also want to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s Web site at http://legis.state.va.us/.

Whether this effort at re-regulation is more like Back to the Future or Gone with the Wind will be determined in just over a month’s time. But no matter what (to continue using the parlance of classic movies), your electric cooperative will be working hard to serve you and your neighbors wisely and well, From Here to Eternity.


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