Utilities Formula Bill Clears Hurdle
the Utilities Formula Bill Clears Hurdle COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A compromise compromise bill that would establish a new method for determining how much utilities may charge for service has cleared its first legislative hurdie, but major obstacles line the road ahead. The House Insurance, Utilities and Financial Institutions Committee will begin consideration next Tuesday of a biU loaded with, .controversy and unanswered questions on cost factors and impact on ratepayers. The bill was unanimously approved in subcommittee Wednesday but few, if any. legislators or lobbyists were satisfied with it. "I have some serious doubts about the consumer impact of this bill." said Rep. Dennis Eckart. D-18 Euclid. "However, I'm going to vote to get the bill out of subcommittee because I want to see it in full committee." Rep. William G. Batchelder, R-93 Medina, who helped hammer out the compromise, noted that some key sections "would be reworked in full committee." As written the bill would repeal the present Reconstruction Cost New (RCN) formula and replace it with an original cost rate base for the state to use as a starting point in considering utility applications for increases. Under the RCN method, gas, electric and telephone companies recalculate the cost of their investment in plants and other facilities at current market value. Backers of repeal say this results in up-to-date prices for out-of- date properties and opens the door windfall profits for utilities. The original cost formula would allow such trending up, but would permit utility companies to calculate per cent of interest paid on loans construction in progress as part of overall operating expenses. RCN not allow any" interest flow-through, feature inserted in the bill last apparently as a concession to the utilities. Rep. Vernon Cook, D-39 Cuyahoga Falls, estimated the interest factor would add $120 million to $130 a utility's allowable operating expenses expenses as figured in the rate base. "That's too much," said Cook had originally proposed and supported the interest plan. Cook said he was not certain much the pass-through of interest would add to customers bills. But former Public Utilities Commissioner Henry Eckhart, an arch-critic of utility industry, placed it in the neighborhood of more than $300 million annually. The lack of reliable figures the impact of the new rate plan largely responsible for the widespread dissatisfaction with the subcommittee version. "What does it mean at the line for the consumer." asked Smith, executive-secretary of the AFL-CIO. "Nobody knows."