Saying they fear Nevada consumers will face the same kinds of runaway power bills as in other states, Legislative Democrats on Tuesday urged Gov. Kenny Guinn to delay opening electric power deregulation.
Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, Assembly Majority Leader Richard Perkins and Assistant Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, all from Clark County, said first there must be safeguards in place to protect residential consumers from sharp rises in their rates.
They said the 1999 law approved by the Legislature included a rate freeze for residential consumers but recent agreements between big electrical users and utilities resulted in rate increases approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
They questioned whether the commission has the power to disregard legislation approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
"A majority of the members of both houses of the Legislature - elected by the people - approved a measure last year that clearly included a rate freeze for residential customers for three years," the three said in a joint statement. "That provision of the law is being completely ignored."
They said those who can least afford it - seniors on fixed incomes, small businesses and working families - could face sharp increases in monthly power bills unless there are safeguards put in place.
They said the utility commission has already approved increases totaling about 7 percent since July. They said with monthly increases agreed to in the deal, rates could go up as much as 64 percent in the next 30 months.
"If the deal made between the utilities and regulators moves forward, large users can look for power elsewhere this November while residential users cannot shop for power on the open market until September of 2001," they said.
They said if the rate freeze is being ignored by the commission, then the entire deregulation plan needs to be revisited by the 2001 Legislature.
They asked the governor to put deregulation on hold until small users can be protected.