Taming electric rates

LEGISLATION that cleared the General Assembly this past week won't prevent higher electric bills for Ohioans, but - and here's the good news - the increases won't be as great as the utilities wanted.

Indeed, the electric-regulation measure is more pro-consumer than most observers could have imagined, given tenacious lobbying by FirstEnergy and other power companies, who wanted the Republican-controlled legislature to give them pretty much carte blanche to set rates.

But the utilities were held in check, thanks in no small part to the unflinching resistance of Gov. Ted Strickland and an unusually diverse group, the Ohio Coalition for Affordable Power, whose members ranged from the politically powerful Ohio Association of Manufacturers to advocates for low-income residential customers.

The big political loser in a process that stretched over several months is House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering), who was deep in the pocket of the utilities, along with his House GOP majority. The House is a mere four seats away from Democratic control, and the Republicans, by slavishly carrying water for utility interests, may well have set themselves up for trouble in the November legislative elections. (cont.)

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