SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said on Monday that Illinois Power's service problems in Champaign and Urbana show why an investigation is needed into the utility's finances, but the Illinois Commerce Commission staff disagrees.
The debate now heads to an administrative law judge, who will either rule on the request for an examination, or put the question to the Illinois Commerce Commission for a decision in January, said ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch.
Last month, Madigan, Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, AARP, Citizen Action and Illinois Public Interest Research Group asked the commission to investigate Illinois Power's financial condition and whether that status could cause delivery problems for customers.
Champaign and Urbana officials got involved after hearing from a number of residents and businesses who were upset with the reliability of Illinois Power's service.
After hearing from Madigan, consumer groups, Illinois Power and the two cities, the Illinois Commerce Commission staff recommended that no such investigation was necessary.
"A commission investigation into IP's financial and management condition is not warranted at this time, given that the commission and its staff have been monitoring IP for financial viability, operational management of electric and gas operations and customer satisfaction," the commission staff reported.
According to the ICC staff report, the utility has developed a remedial action plan and is working with the cities of Champaign and Urbana to implement it.
But Madigan said the problems Champaign and Urbana have experienced, including a recent equipment failure that led to a boil order, show exactly why an investigation is needed.
"The problems that (commerce commission) staff acknowledge have arisen in Champaign and Urbana are just the sort of problems that our petition was meant to address," Madigan said.
Madigan and other consumer groups first requested the investigation during Chicago-based Exelon Corp's attempt to purchase Illinois Power.
In hearings before the Illinois General Assembly, Exelon suggested that Illinois Power was under financial stress, and that expediting its purchase of the utility would avert a potential reliability crisis; but Illinois Power had been singing a different song to other state regulators.
"Let's get to the bottom of this," said John Moore, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Exelon walked away from the proposed merger when the General Assembly failed to pass legislation it deemed essential to the sale, and St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. is now in exclusive negotiations to purchase Illinois Power from Houston-based Dynegy Inc.
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