One of the state’s most powerful groups is launching a campaign to defeat a bill which would deregulate Iowa’s electric utility industry. The American Association of Retired Persons — A-A-R-P — has 356-thousand Iowa members and all of ’em are being urged to call their legislator to ask for a “no” vote on the bill.Bruce Koeppel, A-A-R-P’s state director, says the bill is bad for consumers and will raise costs. He says if the bill becomes law, some elderly Iowans will be forced to choose between buying prescription drugs or paying their light bill. He says they want an independant study on why the state should deregulate. Koeppel says if the industry is “deregulated,” Iowa’s rural consumers may not get their power restored as quickly when there’s a tornado or ice storm because utilities will cut employees.A-A-R-P has sent two-thousand “legislative alert” newsletters and is making phone calls to its members. A-A-R-P activist Betty Powell says utilities are trying to force deregulation through the legislature.One analyst says southern Iowa customers in what used to be “Iowa Southern Utilities” territory will see their rates go up 40 percent immediately when the bill becomes law. That utility served consumers in the Burlington, Ottumwa, Grinnell, Newton and Creston areas. Governor Tom Vilsack says he and Iowa legislators would be taking a “huge risk” if they do not come to some agreement on a bill which would change the way electric power is sold in Iowa. It’s called electric de-regulation by some, electric restructuring by others. Vilsack says if it doesn’t happen, Iowa will lose in the race for new businesses.Vilsack says utilities are now required to provide some assurance low-income Iowans can keep the heat on during cold spells, but those programs end in two years.Vilsack had raised concerns that the bill didn’t require electric companies to invest in alternative energy sources, like wind energy and bio-mass.
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