Utility policy unvetted

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I’m writing in response to Ed Feigenbaum’s recent column regarding the necessity of the General Assembly to engage in a detailed study of issues in an era of rapid change [Lawmakers plod along in era of rapid change, April 26].

Among the models he suggested is the standing, summer Regulatory Flexibility Committee—originally created to address changes in utility ratemaking and technology— that has since been replaced by the interim study committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications.

However serious an attempt the reg flex committee was, it proved to be completely inadequate—not by design, necessarily, but by political will—to seriously address the requirements and needs not only of monopoly utilities but also of their ratepayers and the rest of Indiana’s economy.

There has never been any sense of serious inquiry into utility issues at the General Assembly. I lobbied there for 20 years. At most, the committee would meet a few times for a few hours in the fall—nothing more. No pro-ratepayer piece of legislation passed over those years—and still hasn’t.

Lately, Indiana energy policy has been reduced to the Indiana Energy Association (lobbying arm of the state’s monopoly utilities) handing top leadership a bill, perfunctory hearings and passage by our legislators with little or no understanding of the implications for ratepayers or the Indiana economy. And there’s no indication that ratepayers or the rest of the Indiana economy matters to most in the majority party leadership.

This year, however, the General Assembly created a 21st Century Development Task Force that will report back in December of 2020. There is now hope of a broader discussion and introducing some semblance of balance between utility and ratepayer interests. On the other hand, there are no designated representatives for residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers (the bulk of the Indiana economy) on the task force. They will probably be able to testify but, if current trends prevail, have no final say in the ultimate policy recommendations. This must be rectified.


Grant Smith

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