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Industry News

SoCal Ed 'Rescue' May Die Tomorrow

LCG, Sept. 13, 2001--A bill passed by the California Assembly last week to "rescue" Southern California Edison Co., the state's second-largest electric utility, from impending bankruptcy is back in the state Senate, laden with amendments that threaten its passage.

The California legislature will adjourn for the year tomorrow, probably in time to beat the traffic out of Sacramento.

The rescue bill was sitting in the state Senate Rules Committee this morning, according to a spokesman for Sen. Debra Bowen, a Redondo Beach Democrat.

The Rules Committee had not yet decided where to send the measure. It could go to the state Senate energy committee for discussion, which would almost certainly kill it with so little time left in the legislative session, or it could stay right where it is and suffocate.

According to Jeff Goldberg, Bowen's spokesman, his boss has concerns over significant changes to the bill made by the Assembly, including revisions to direct access, which allows customers' a choice of utility providers, that could raise and shift costs among customer classes.

Sen. John Burton, a San Francisco Democrat who is president pro tem of the state Senate, had warned the Assembly not to make many changes to the measure, which had already passed the upper house in July. The Assembly wasn't listening.

For one thing, the Assembly doubled the amount the state would pay for SoCal Ed's transmission assets under a five-year option, from $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion. The utility had been under the impression that Gov. Gray Davis had promised to buy the wires business for $2.76 billion.

No one is betting that the SoCal Ed rescue plan will make it our of the legislature before the legislature makes it out of Sacramento, but Goldberg observed "It's not unheard of to be done."

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