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Bill Aims to Protect Utility Rate Payers

Bill Aims to Protect Utility Rate Payers

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A utility regulation bill is intended to keep consumers from being charged too much when new power facilities are built.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chad Bennion, R-Murray, would allow competition with PacifiCorp.

"Utah has no statutes or rules that give owners or developers of Utah's electrical generation resources a fair opportunity to compete with PacifiCorp and its affiliates to provide new generation resources," Bennion said Wednesday.

"New rules are needed to protect ratepayers against unfair business practices and create a fair and open competitive process for the development of the best electrical generation resources, regardless of ownership or affiliation."

The bill, which would not apply to rural electric cooperatives or municipal power systems, is expected to be discussed by the House Public Utilities and Technology Standing Committee this week.

Utilities are under increased pressure from their parent companies to increase profits, Bennion said, adding that the bill was prompted in part by PacifiCorp's purchase of all of the output of a new power plant in West Valley City. The plant was built by nonregulated PacifiCorp Power Marketing, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp parent ScottishPower.

"I think the company ought to be able to make a profit, but it ought to be reasonable. And just because it thinks it needs to increase its revenues, there should be some return to the citizens of the state," he said.

Dave Eskelsen, a spokesman for PacifiCorp, said the bill would make acquiring resources "overly complex and delay the process to the detriment of customers."

"What this bill does is create new, unnecessary layers of regulation targeted toward Utah Power's work to acquire cost-effective resources for customers," he said, adding that acquiring resources already is time-consuming.

"Delays in this process could severely impair the company's ability to meet those needs in the most reliable, cost-effective way."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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