Considering electrical power

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Everyone likes it when they flip on the light switch and the room lights up. Most everyone is unhappy when their electric bill arrives after a particularly hot or cold month. It is a love-hate relationship with consumers. This is an important issue that the General Assembly is dealing with this session. Historically, the State Corporation Commission sets the rates that Dominion charges customers, and in so doing provides a profit that is fair and responsible. Every couple of years they audit the books, looking back to determine if they have made too much or not enough. They can then order them to refund customers or allow an increase in rates moving forward.

The General Assembly has struggled about the best way to protect consumers while understanding the need of electricity of consumers. We tried to bring competition to the state; that did not work. There was little interest by consumers or independent power companies. A couple of years ago with concerns about the federal government regulators, we negotiated with the companies to lock in current rates for several years as they started making plans to close coal power plants to meet expected federal regulations. After the 2016 elections, the worst regulations were withdrawn. Therefore, the question this year is how do we step back from the action of several years ago? Meanwhile, natural gas prices dropped, requiring rebates to consumers. After negotiation, the question was how much should be a direct rebate and how much could be used to modernize equipment? We tried to find the right balance.

Mixed into the equation was the issue of coal ash that has been in the ground for decades. Some wanted all of this dug out and transported to lined landfills. This would cost billions of dollars that would be paid for in your future electric bills.

Friday the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) came to the Rules Committee. … According to the Archivist of the U.S., the ERA is not currently pending before the states, but is categorized as a failed amendment. …

Frank Ruff represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@