John Quain, chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, who helped draft legislation to introduce electric competition in his state, predicts that natural gas deregulation is next on the agenda.
In fact, the Gas Customer Choice Act was pending in the House and Senate in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Speaking at the American Gas Association's Natural Gas Roundtable on July 16 in Washington, D.C., Quain predicted a customer choice bill would be signed either this calendar year or early in 1998.
The pending bill would allow for natural gas customer choice on April 1, 1999 with no phase-in period. The customer education components are significant: It would require gas distribution companies to exit the merchant function.
Quain pointed out that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) recently said in a speech to the Edison Electric Institute that he wants competition in the telephone, electric and gas industries by 2002. According to Quain, it is possible for any state to move these three industries to competition, if the commissions remember that competition works better than monopoly. Quain recommends a transition period, with rules written on an industry and case-by-case basis.
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