Senate president calls for utility rate investigation

MARYLAND - Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called for an investigation into "abnormally high" electricity bills this winter.

Miller has directed the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Senate Finance Committee to question regulators and utility companies about electricity bills. The two committees will hold hearings in Annapolis.

Miller, D-Calvert, said he decided to hold the hearing after attending a town hall meeting in Chesapeake Beach.

"I saw firsthand how frustrated residents are, and how concerned they are about their ability to pay," Miller wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the two Senate committees.

Miller also wrote that lawmakers have been receiving hundreds of calls and e-mails from constiutents "who are appalled and angry about their utility bills."

"We have heard repeatedly that it's an exceptionally cold year — but that answer is insufficient for working families struggling to make ends meet," Miller wrote.

Miller also asked lawmakers to "investigate how the Maryland Energy Administration intends to use federal stimulus funds to promote weatherization and help Marylanders coping with utility bills."

Representatives from Baltimore Gas and Electric told members of the state's Public Service Commission that cold weather is largely to blame for higher utility bills. They also said electric rates are about 12.5 percent higher and gas rates about 5 percent higher than last winter.

The PSC asked the state's gas and electric companies earlier this month to submit explanations for the high winter bills, the number of complaints they have received and their responses.


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