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Quinn doesn't support automatic utility increases

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is vowing to veto a bill he says would give the state's biggest electricity provider too much power to raise rates and skirt state regulators.

A bill in the Illinois House would make it easier for ComEd, which provides electricity to 70 percent of Illinoisians, to pay for power grid improvements with higher rates. Right now utilities must slog through a nearly year-long hearing process with the Illinois Commerce Commission before rate hikes can go into effect. ComEd has complained the system is too cumbersome to allow for the sort of major upgrades that Illinois' aging power grid requires.

Under the new proposal, sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Kevin McCarthy, of Orland Park, rate hikes calculated by a formula would take effect immediately. State regulators could later request to roll back the rate hikes if they determine they're too high, but that could take place only after the new, higher rates went into effect.

The result would be a system that grants companies like ComEd too much authority to raise consumer power prices away from the watchful eye of state regulators, Quinn said. "We can not allow an energy policy in Illinois to be run by a company or two," Quinnn said Monday. "We have to  have everybody in, and nobody left out."

The governor said he supports modernizing Illinois' electric grid. But he said power companies should foot the bill, not consumers. Quinn said power companies could save a lot of money if they made the existing power grid more efficient.

A ComEd spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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