* We’ll start our coverage with today’s Tribune story…
Lawmakers, school officials and mayors lashed out at utility companies Tuesday in a rare public hearing before the full House, saying skyrocketing electricity bills are forcing consumers to choose between food, medicine and heat.
“I can’t begin to describe the crisis and calamity going on,” said Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), sitting by a bundle of constituents’ bills 2 feet high. “The scales of justice in this state are out of whack.” […]
The hearing unleashed pent-up rage over bills that began arriving in consumer mailboxes about the time House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones reached a stalemate over how to address one of the biggest pocketbook issues the two Chicago Democrats have faced in years.
* Meanwhile, ComEd claimed they don’t have a rate problem up north, and blatantly threw Ameren under the bus…
â€œYes, thereâ€™s a serious issue in the state of Illinois,â€ Clark said. â€œBut itâ€™s not all over Illinois and 75 percent of the customer base in Illinois is not having that problem. Now do we need to address the situation in southern Illinois? Absolutely.â€
Madigan said he’s “still very hopeful” that the Senate will support another freeze, even though Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) stymied a similar plan in January.
Ameren and ComEd executives have said another freeze would wreak financial havoc on their companies.
* Madigan called the ICC-imposed “reverse power auction” nothing more than a fix…
â€œThat auction is nothing more than a fix,â€ Madigan said. â€œItâ€™s a fix for Exelon and other large power producers that can produce power at costs so low that when you compare the cost of producing the power against the price set by the reverse clock auction, thereâ€™s enough spread (that) the financial houses from New York have become buyers and sellers of power in Illinois. Thatâ€™s not right.â€
* And Ameren offered up a “compromise“…
The president of Ameren’s Illinois utilities, facing a roomful of angry state lawmakers Tuesday, vowed one-time partial refunds to Illinoisans who have been socked with unusually high power bills this month â€” a $20 million gambit apparently designed to persuade the Legislature not to re-regulate electric rates.
* But as I told you last night, when I was the first to run a brief piece on the Ameren proposal, the Speaker turned thumbs down, claiming the Ameren offer (which totaled $35 million) was insufficient.
* Lawmakers comment on electric rate hikes
* Outlining the program options offered by ComEd
* And a Daily Herald semi-blogger registered his complaints.
Making the management of the proceedings even more questionable was the fact that it was 7:30 p.m. before the Ameren CEO took the witness stand to explain why some of his companyâ€™s customers are seeing power bill increases of 200 to 300 percent and tell lawmakers what he planned to do about it. Scott Cisel, the Ameren CEO, outlined an 8-point plan of customer relief only to have it largely dismissed by downstate members who openly accuse the company of lying to them about the effects of rate hikes.
But by then, Mayor Daley was being declared the winner of yet another term in Chicago and across the state, media attention was turning to key local races, particularly downstate where there arenâ€™t the resources in many media markets to cover both the hearing and the elections. And, unlike the hearing, the elections were producing results Tuesday night.
At nearly 11 p.m., ComEdâ€™s CEO still had not testified or taken questions.
* Soundclips from committee of the whole hearing [Madigan’s full statement will be posted later this morning in the subscriber-only section]