* WBEZ on the reform angle of the evolving energy bill…
In the House, state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, is carrying legislation to establish a path for ratepayers to win restitution if a utility company engages in criminal wrongdoing. In its deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd said its corrupt lobbying yielded legislative victories valued at more than $150 million for the company.
Her legislation also would do away with automatic rate increases for ComEd customers based on a preset formula. It would bar utilities like ComEd from billing ratepayers for charitable contributions or for legal fees tied to criminal investigations.
And Williams’ measure would establish a czar to oversee utility ethics compliance at the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities.
That czar would have access to a database that ComEd and other utilities would be required to log, showing “requests for anything of value” sought by public officials or their staffs. But those records of potential job or contract asks wouldn’t be directly accessible to the public under current language in Williams’ bill — something she said she’s willing to reconsider.
Her legislation also would prevent ComEd-hired lobbyists from subcontracting, which the company acknowledged in its deferred prosecution agreement as a way political friends of Madigan’s were funneled rewards. That practice, which evaded state lobbying disclosure rules, enabled ComEd lobbyists to hire Madigan associates as consultants, who did little to no work.
“It’s really a shame that we have to babysit the utilities in this way,” Williams told WBEZ. “But unfortunately, ComEd has shown us that they were really willing to make a mockery of the legislative process.”
* AARP Illinois, Illinois PIRG and the Environmental Law & Policy Center recently released a laundry lists of reforms they’d like to see…
Make ComEd really pay for its $200 million settlement by taking it out of future revenues, in turn lowering customers’ bills
Explore other ways to get money back for ComEd customers, as the General Assembly has done before
End automatic “formula” rate hikes for ComEd and Ameren
End “Rider QIP,” a mini-formula rate for gas utilities
Commission an independent audit of ComEd’s grid
Establish integrated grid planning for ComEd and Ameren
Provide the Illinois Commerce Commission with increased resources and staffing to effectively carry out its mission
End utility political giving
No longer allow utilities to charge customers for charitable giving
* Illinois lawmakers considering legislation that could hike ComEd bills less than a year after utility admitted multimillion-dollar bribery scheme: Since the federal prosecutors announced the bribery case last summer, ComEd has argued that even though the legislative process was tainted, consumers still benefited from its passage and no harm has been done to ratepayers. “It is a preposterous position,” [former Gov. Pat Quinn] said. “It’s OK to use bribery to ‘pass’ good laws? You can’t allow that. You ruin democracy that way.”