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Deregulation pusher says he may not be so willing next Legislative session

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The co-author of an electric deregulation bill that was defeated in this year's Legislature said he's not willing to make himself a target by sponsoring it again and doesn't support a different version of the bill.

``I'm not prepared to say today that we're going to have a piece of legislation on this,'' state Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, said.

Easley said Senate Bill 220, which he co-authored as an attempt to establish ground rules for a competitive electric market in Oklahoma, was unfairly attacked by consumer groups.

Easley is chairman of the Senate Energy, Environmental Resources and Regulatory Affairs Committee.

He said Friday during a conference of deregulation in Tulsa that he felt the bill gave ratepayers more consumer protections than they have now.

The proposal would have frozen rates for residential and small commercial customers until 2005. For large industrial customers, rates would have been fixed until 2004. Under the Electric Restructuring Act of 1997, the deadline for customer choice is July 2002.

``I will not support a radical departure from Senate Bill 220,'' Easley said.

Consumer groups, hoping to show the danger of premature electric deregulation, point to California where electric rates skyrocketed after the industry was removed from rate regulation.

But Bill Talley, chairman of RAM Energy Inc., a consulting firm, said California electric rates surged because of bad policies and a shortage of electric generation. He said California imports 25 percent of its electricity, while Oklahoma produces more electricity than it consumes.

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