FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  Contact:  Jeanne K. Clark

May 22, 1998                                                                                                              412/421-6072


Governor Axes Pro-Consumer PUC Commissioner Just One Day After

Pittsburgh Customers Win Relief from Outrageous Electric Rates


New Nominee Has Track Record of Siding with Utility Company


            Pittsburgh, May 22 – “Today’s announcement by Governor Ridge that he is firing Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) member John Hanger – who just yesterday led the PUC in their unanimous vote to finally give Western Pennsylvania consumers relief from their out-of-control electric bills – is a blow to the fight for safe, clean and affordable electricity in Pennsylvania, “ said David Hughes, Executive Director of Citizen Power.


“Commissioner Hanger has been the one strong voice for consumers on the PUC.  He is Independent.  He is persuasive.  He recognizes that consumers must be protected from rapacious utilities.  Through his leadership, he has been able to move Pennsylvania towards real electric competition with real choices for consumers.


“But the job is only half done.  Pennsylvania has yet to move to true competition, and most of the rules are not yet in place.  And we fear that removing Hanger will result in a system that gives corporate welfare to the utilities and kills competition and choice for customers.


“To add insult (to the voters) to injury, Governor Ridge is replacing Hanger with Aaron Wilson, Jr. – a man with a track record of supporting Philadelphia’s mega electric utility, PECO, in its fight to force customers to fork over huge mandated surcharges to cover the Company’s bad investments.  We fear Wilson will fail to serve the public with the independence that is the model of public service exemplified by John Hanger.  We fear that this appointment is yet another example of Governor Ridge’s propensity to place the corporate fox to guard the taxpayer-funded chicken coop.


“We also note that the cynical behavior Tom Ridge is displaying in this nomination – praising Mr. Wilson, yet announcing his nomination at a time least likely to be noticed (Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend, as far away from his November appointment with voters as possible) – shows that Ridge knows this is the wrong thing to do.


“Wee urge the Pennsylvania State Senate to agree that this appointment is wrong, and demand the reappointment of John Hanger.  The voters – not the utilities – deserve an advocate on the Public Utility Commission, “ concluded Hughes.


Citizen Power is a Western Pennsylvania public policy, research, education and advocacy group that fights for consumers and the environment through education and litigation.  Since the legislature’s middle-of-the-night passage of the 1996 Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act, Citizen Power has represented the rights of consumers to lower rates and clean, safe power.  Citizen Power was an officially designated Public Interest Intervenor in the DQE/AYE cases before the PUC, and is the only Western Pennsylvania organization working full-time on this issue.