Assembly panel to vote on Edison bailout today

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Two proposals are vying for lawmakers’ support. The utility says both fall short.

The Orange County Register

SACRAMENTO After three months of political wrangling, a bill that would bail out financially crippled Southern California Edison will finally be voted on in the Legislature today.

The Assembly energy committee will consider competing Democrat-authored measures, although it’s unclear whether either will get enough support to make it to the full Assembly. Even if one does, the Senate and Gov. Gray Davis— each of which have their own save-Edison proposals–would have to agree.

AB82XX, supported by the Assembly’s Democratic leadership, could result in rate reductions in the future, promises to double the amount of renewable energy supplies, would purchase Edison‘s transmission lines for $2.4 billion, and would place the lion’s share of Edison‘s $3.1 billion debt on businesses–which had asked for deregulation in the early 1990s.

AB83XX, cobbled together by a bipartisan contingent, could work for both Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, which is in bankruptcy. That bill, crafted in the past few days, would sprinkle the utilities’ debt equally across all business and residential ratepayers at the cost of $2 a month for those in Edison‘s territory and $4 a month for those in PG&E‘s.

The author of AB83XX, Assemblyman Rod Wright, D-Los Angeles, was blunt about his plan.

Let me say the bad word: This is a straight bailout. There’s no hidden ball. There’s no extra,” said Wright, who criticized the other plan as too complicated.

Edison would prefer lawmakers approve the deal it cut with Davis, in which the state would pay $2.7 billion for Edison‘s transmission lines. But that proposal is all but dead–criticized it as too sweet for Edison.

Of the bills still on the table, Ted Craver, chief financial officer for Edison, said the Senate bill would not accomplish the goal of credit worthiness” for the struggling utility and that the two Assembly proposals also were unclear.

We seem to have stated goals of credit-worthiness, even investment-grade credit-worthiness, in that (state officials) want the utility to resume the power-procurement function,” Craver said.

But when you look at all the specific pieces (of the bills), they don’t accomplish that.”

Consumer advocates see problems, too.

Neither of these plans will survive the voters,” said Doug Heller, whose Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights threatens to promote a voter initiative for a public power authority.

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