2 Edison bailout bills advance in Assembly Energy

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The competing plans clear committees and may face the full chamber today.

Orange County Register

SACRAMENTO Lawmakers moved forward on two bailout plans for Southern California Edison late Wednesday, although there was no guarantee that they — or a third competing plan still in play — would become law.

The Assembly’s energy committee passed 12-3 a bipartisan proposal that would spread Edison‘s $3.1 billion debt evenly across business and residential ratepayers.

The energy panel and the Assembly appropriations committee also passed, by the minimum votes needed, a competing plan by Democratic leaders that would shift 90 percent of Edison‘s debt to businesses. It could also result in residential rate decreases in a couple of years.

Both bills are expected to go to the full Assembly today.

The action came as the Legislature hastily attempted to jam three versions of a bailout package through their respective houses Wednesday after more than three months of agonizing over how to keep Edison from going bankrupt.

More than a dozen interest groups said they were generally unhappy with all versions of the bills and suggested amendments. Many complained they’ve had little time to read the bills, all of which have surfaced in the past few days.

“The whole process has been a ramrod. What we face today is more than an energy crisis. What we have is a democracy crisis,” said consumer advocate Doug Heller.

Bob Foster, an Edison vice president and lobbyist, said the Democrat leadership bill would help the utility avoid bankruptcy but was unsure whether it would help it become creditworthy” enough to be able to borrow money and resume buying power. The state started buying power for Edison in January when the utility could no longer pay its bills.

In the upper house, senators debated SB78XX, which replaced Gov. Gray Davis‘ original bailout plan. Under that bill, the state could opt to buy Edison‘s transmission lines for less than half of what Davis had proposed, and businesses would pay $2.5 billion of the company’s debt.

The Senate energy committee rejected the bill 4-3. Another vote is planned today, when two members absent earlier are expected to attend.

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