Pennsylvania utility-backed measure drawing criticism heads toward vote

Patrick Cicero of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project says the shift could mean higher bills

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation that Pennsylvania utilities say will help them recoup costs more quickly is heading toward a final vote in the state Senate, but consumer advocates warn that it lacks protection for people and businesses.

Tanya McCloskey, Pennsylvania's acting consumer advocate, said Wednesday the measure represents change to the state's regulated rate-setting model.

Terry Fitzpatrick of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, which supports the legislation, says allowing electric and gas utilities to adjust distribution charges between time-consuming rate cases wouldn't mean higher long-term costs for consumers. Changes would still be subject to regulatory approval and he says consumer advocates could still argue for certain protections.

But Patrick Cicero of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project says the shift could mean higher bills, less incentive for utilities to control costs and less scrutiny of their finances.

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