Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) has vetoed legislation that would have authorized a multi-billion investment in modernizing Illinois' electric grid while maintaining strict regulatory oversight and consumer protections.
Along with fellow Democrat Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Governor Quinn formally axed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (Senate Bill 1652) stating that the bill "puts too heavy of a burden on consumers at a time when they aren’t getting the service quality they are already paying for each month." This action will likely receive considerable push back from members of both the Senate and the House which both passed the legislation earlier this year. The Senate, which is made up of 35 Democrats and 24 Republicans, voted 31-24 to pass the bill and the House, made up of 64 Democrats and 54 Republicans passed the legislation by a vote 67-47.
A major part of the decision to block the new law is that it would have allowed for utilities to increase rates for its customers to cover the cost of implementing smart-grid technology. Governor Quinn said that he would "not support a bill that contains sweetheart deals for big utilities, which could leave struggling consumers to pick up the tab for costs such as lobbying fees and executive bonuses."
The utility that would be affected most by this legislation is Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC) subsidiary Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the state's largest utility. The utility claims that, in fact, its customers will benefit from investments in smart grid technology. Last month, Black & Veatch released a report which finds that ComEd customers could save $2.8 billion on their electric bills over the 20-year life of smart meters. At that time ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore said "As other states are building more efficient and reliable electric grids, Illinois is in danger of falling behind."
For the Governor there is a better way to support modernizing the grid without putting the financial risk in the hands of consumers.
He said "We can ensure innovation and investment in our electric grid, and create new jobs, without compromising core safeguards for Illinois consumers."
As an alternative to 1652 he announced his support for reforms proposed by the Illinois Commerce Commission, specifically House Amendment #3 to House Bill 14 which he feels "represents a good faith effort toward modernizing the grid, reforming our regulatory system, and protecting Illinois’ ratepayers."
Senate Bill 1652 is not dead yet however. With enough support in both the House and Senate, when legislators meet for the fall session there may be an attempt to override the veto.
Image Credit: ChrisEaves.com via Flickr.
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