FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jeanne K. Clark
July 23, 1998 412/421-6072
Pittsburgh, July 23 – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) today reversed its previous decision protecting consumers and competition, and granted Duquesne Light and Allegheny Power the right to proceed with an unrestricted merger, based on nothing more than the promise of future investigations, according to Citizen Power, a Western Pennsylvania consumer and environmental watchdog group.
David Hughes, Executive Director of Citizen Power said, “Once again, backroom politics have triumphed over democracy. This decision violates the law establishing electric competition and the PUC’s own rules. Instead of protecting competition and consumers, the decision guarantees that the new mega-Company will control all access to electricity in Western Pennsylvania. Electric Choice, with no choice, makes Electric Chumps out of the consumers.
“Now we know,” continued Hughes, “what Allegheny Power was personally thanking Governor Ridge for (attached June 4, 1998 letter of Allegheny Power to Tom Ridge, which Ridge’s office then faxed to PUC Chair John Quain). Ridge snuffed out competition in its infancy and sold out residential and small business electricity customers. He showed his true colors as a lapdog for big money and mega-corporations. With this political move, Ridge has distinguished himself as the best Governor money can buy.
“The PUC’s decision today flies in the face of the facts and the PUC’s own regulations. The PUC trampled the rights of all Pennsylvanians to a fair and impartial decision-making process in order to arrive at this decision. Once Aaron Wilson replaced John Hanger, the Ridge-controlled PUC was assembled. Then they moved at warp speed to do the Companies’ bidding. No public debate, no opportunity for rebuttal witnesses, no free flow of information -- every step was taken at the pleasure of the Companies. The so-called evidence the Companies presented was merely a smoke screen that permitted Ridge’s PUC to reverse their earlier previous competition – and consumer-friendly decision, and do what the Companies wanted.
“The much vaunted advertising campaign asks, ‘Where do you think you are, Pennsylvania?’ Today, we ask Tom Ridge and the PUC: Where do you think you are, Tammany Hall?
“Citizen Power is examining the options for challenging this bald political move. The public has a right to a fair process, and to true competition, just as they were promised by the Governor, the legislature and the PUC. We intend to make them keep those promises,” concluded Hughes.
Citizen Power is an officially designated Public Interest Intervenor in the Western Pennsylvania cases on electricity restructuring. Last month, Citizen Power and other local organizations released evidence of secret communications on these cases between the PUC Chair’s office and Duquesne Light, as well as evidence of apparent intervention on the merger case by Gov. Tom Ridge. For more information or copies of the documents referred to above, contact Jeanne K. Clark at 412/421-6072.