Chicago Sun-Times
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General Assembly moves ComEd 'smart-grid' plan to Quinn's desk

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SPRINGFIELD-Against the will of Gov. Pat Quinn, the Illinois House Thursday easily passed legislation sought by Commonwealth Edison to raise utility rates by $70 million annually in an effort to resume the stalled modernization of its electrical grid.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), passed the House with little debate by an 86-23 margin with three voting present and now moves to Quinn's desk.

"What Senate Bill 9 does at its core is clarify the law," Lang said. "[The bill] is designed to modernize our electric grid and to create many jobs in the state of Illinois. The process has begun, but we need this bill to accelerate that process."

Under the proposal, ComEd would have 10 years to complete its so-called smart-grid modernization, and customers would not see their rates increase until 2014. The utility estimates the average residential utility bill will jump by about 40 cents a month and increase by 80 cents per month by 2017.

The measure would also restore funding to ComEd and Ameren Illinois that was lost when the Illinois Commerce Commission imposed rate cuts on the utilities last May and again in October. The utility had challenged the commission in court when it was denied about $100 million in rate hikes, of which only $65-70 million is addressed in the legislation, ComEd claims.

The bill passed out the Senate last week where it was sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who said the decision by the ICC to cut rates was a misinterpretation of smart-grid legislation passed in 2011 to bankroll a $2.6 billion ComEd smart-grid upgrade over the next decade.

Quinn is against the legislation, but the number of votes the measure received in both the House and the Senate would be enough to override a potential veto from the governor. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also indicated she opposes the bill.

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