Friday, March 16, 2007

Price fixing?

The mess over electricity rates just got messier. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allege that 15 power companies manipulated a power auction last September. The auction set electricity prices for Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison, which buy power and distribute it to homes and businesses. Madigan’s office says the auction set unfair prices that cost Illinois consumers an extra $4.3 billion.

The complaint cites evidence, some of which is blacked out for the public. For instance, it says ComEd’s parent company, Exelon Generation, won 97 percent of the 41-month ComEd contracts.

Madigan, along with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, has opposed the so-called reverse power auction from the beginning, saying it violates the intent of the 1997 state law that set the stage for today’s “deregulation” process.

Today also marks the day that Ameren Illinois has to answer the first batch of questions from the Illinois Commerce Commission, but spokeswoman Beth Bosch says the commission will have to review the answers before deciding whether they’ll be public. She adds that the commission is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Springfield. Ameren’s invited to the Tuesday meeting. We’ll see if we can hear some of those answers.

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