COLUMBUS (TDB) -- If Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy has done its calculations correctly, a utility-supported amendment drafted for an electric rate-reform measure pending in the Statehouse could wallop residential consumers. The group sees the average monthly bill from Duke Energy for a Cincinnati-area family of four climbing from $123.67 to $213.71 by 2011.
Dave Harding has the details of the projected increases across the state here at Progress Ohio. He also has a table with numbers showing how much each utility company would be able to charge. For example, bills in the Columbus area would go from $79.52 to $134.70, and Toledo Edison customer rates would hit $227.52, up from $131.67. These increases are near 75%, and would not include the costs for natural gas used in home heating. The amendment is just one of several floating around the Statehouse, but it shows how lawmakers must be careful. A phrase or two, a clause and a paragraph crafted by a lobbyist and inserted into a bill, can have dramatic consequences. Obviously, the amendment has generated concern and opposition and likely is dead. But, in Columbus such things have a way of coming back to life, or seeming to appear out of the mists from nowhere. Earlier this year, for example, lawmakers quietly adopted a budget-law provision that limits how much wine Ohioans can buy from out-of-state shippers. The effect of the bill: Raising prices for consumers and protecting the wine industry. At the time, there was economic data available showing that the changes would raise prices for wine consumers, but the lobbyists prevailed.
Dave Rinbebolt of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy calls the utility rate reform amendment an open door to a crippling price increase. He says lawmakers must resist attempts by utilities to influence legislation. He says the companies are entitled to make reasonable profits, but shouldn't be allowed to price gouge.