By Sylvie Dale
SACRAMENTO, Calif., September 7, 2001 — The California State Assembly late Thursday approved a $2.9-billion bill to keep Southern California Edison from declaring bankruptcy.
The much-debated bill, with a 41-32 vote, had the bare minimum of votes required to pass.
The bill now moves to the California Senate, where it will be compared with an existing version the Senate passed earlier this summer, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Assembly committees have extensively changed the bill from its original form created by the Senate, with the current version giving the utility more help than the Senate version, according to a Reuters News Service report.
The bill would allow Edison to sell bonds to pay off about $2.9 billion of the debt it accumulated during the energy crisis when it paid high costs for energy but was not allowed to pass the cost along to ratepayers. It still leaves SoCal Edison with $1 billion in debt to pay on its own.
Consumer groups have been strongly opposed to the plan, which they have said would burden utility ratepayers. Under the current version, the bonds would be paid off by the top 180,000 of the utility’s large and medium business ratepayers.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a unit of PG&E Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April after mounting debts became too much for the utility.
SoCal Edison has about 11 million customers.