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Edison's Con

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To the editors:

Hats off to Harold Henderson for his article on the Com Ed rate-hike plan [April 10]!

We recently received our electric bill from Commonwealth Edison. Good news, I thought. For the second month in a row, we were able to keep the bill under $60--no mean feat for a family of four with two typically forgetful kids. We were feeling pretty good about this. Then I turned the bill over.

On the other side Com Ed had sent us a message. It told us how they had asked the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to lower residential summer rates as part of their recent rate proposal, and that the proposal, if adopted, would also "lower [the] monthly service charge and freeze rates for 5 years."

Now, it isn't these goals I object to. Who in their right mind would? It was, rather, the devious way that Com Ed was taking credit for solving problems that they are responsible for creating in the first place. It's kind of like surgeons going around shooting people, and then claiming credit for practicing their skills "for the benefit of society."

For months Com Ed and others have been lambasting the motives of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) in opposing the Com Ed rate plan. Yet, there was no mention on my bill that Com Ed had created the extraordinarily high customer service charge, and that CUB had been fighting to lower it over Com Ed's objections for the last two years! As for lowering the summer rates, CUB has also supported that for as long as they have been high.

My bill also did not mention that the so-called "rate-freeze" was to come after a near record breaking (missing only by $1 million), $660 million per year rate-hike. And that this money would go to pay for nuclear power plants of questionable need. And that these plants would be generating tons of radioactive waste over the course of their lifetimes, which, by Illinois law, will have to be disposed of in Illinois.

My bill did not mention that in 1986 Com Ed spent about 73 times as much money on nuclear power plant construction as it did on its conservation program; or that by a strange quirk of law, my efforts, and those of countless others to conserve electricity may actually cause rates to increase. My bill also did not mention that Com Ed's rates are currently the highest in the midwest, and that, if their plan is approved by the ICC, their rates will be among the 2 or 3 highest in the nation. A great way to "build Illinois," eh?

There are many other items that Com Ed "conveniently" forgot to mention in its note to its customers about what nice guys they are for promoting their rate plan. About how they excluded intervenors from the negotiations, until forced to include them by news leaks; about coercing the ICC into making unreasonable and unfavorable rulings in Com Ed's favor by threatening to withdraw their proposal if the ICC didn't play ball; about being the ones who walked out on the negotiation process with consumer groups. The list goes on.

Yes, it's been a long, long time since Com Ed has been "Working for you . . ." and me. Working us over may be closer to the truth. There is something that goes far beyond mere opportunism and mean spiritedness in Com Ed's attempt to enhance its image by reducing in token amounts the damage to our communities its previous actions have caused. The victims of Com Ed's actions have only until July 1st to tell the Illinois Commerce Commission that the Com Ed rate-hike plan is just another sham and manipulation of the law, and should be rejected summarily.

David A. Kraft

Evanston

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