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June 13, 2002

In the Interest of the People

Al Duke

This is one of those phrases that cause the alarm bells to go off in my head. Whenever I hear it, I look around to find the source and to understand the situation and regularly discover that what the speaker means is that it is "in my best interest."

Most recently eight state cabinet secretaries requested that the Public Service Commission put all power plant applications on hold. Since the electricity market in Maryland has been deregulated, they suggest that a new process needs to be considered for these applications.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeremy Dreier is quoted in the Frederick News-Post as saying that, "We think it''s not in the interest of the people of Maryland to have delays built into this process, which accomplish nothing but change the rules in the middle of the game."

When I read that quote, my antennae went up. Well, he is entitled to his opinion. And so am I.

If I might paraphrase Mr. Dreier slightly, what I hear him saying is, "It is not in the interest of Duke Energy to have delays in the process."

And as far as changing the rules in the middle of the game, what has really happened is that Maryland has changed the game but not the rules.

The rules in place no longer reflect the reality of the energy market in this state. The General Assembly seems to have overlooked requiring a review of the process once energy deregulation became the new game in town. This is OK, we are all human and sometimes miss some of the repercussions of our actions.

But when the problem surfaces, it needs to be studied and any necessary changes made before continuing. Otherwise, we could make a bad situation worse.

Examining the consequences of Mr. Dreier''s statement, if it were to be acted on, a number of questions come to mind.

I fully support the eight state cabinet secretaries, who understand the serious issues involved here. The Public Service Commission should listen to them.

Power to the People (not the grid).

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