Asbury Park Press

A Victory For Ratepayers

Asbury Park Press — Sunday, September 17, 2006

Exelon Corp. has given up its proposed $17 billion acquisition of Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group because of an inability to come to terms with New Jersey regulators. That's good news for the state's utility ratepayers who will not be subject to a giant utility that could manipulate the regional energy market and drive up costs.

The state Board of Public Utilities refused to buckle and reduce protections they demanded for consumers before approving the merger, which would have created the largest U.S. utility. The regulators braced against summer pressure when Exelon offered a rate freeze and rate credits to sweeten the deal. But the Chicago-based utility warned those sweeteners would be lost if the merger were not approved quickly.

This was too important a deal to rush to judgment, and the BPU stood firm. It gave heavier weight to its concerns that the merger would not provide real relief to ratepayers and ultimately could send rates soaring. The merger's critics saw it was creating a power behemoth capable of influencing wholesale electricity prices that could raise rates throughout the state.

The BPU has put the concerns of ratepayers above corporate and stockholder interests. Its refusal to be on the weak end of a compromise is commendable.

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