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Cohen Faces Growing Criticism

By Amy Hart in News on Oct 31, 2005 2:39PM


The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is the state agency charged with ensuring citizens have reliable and affordable utilities, as well as regulating utility companies. This job seems more important than ever since energy energy prices are expected to soar this winter.

Last month Governor Blagojevich named Martin R. Cohen as the new Chairman of the ICC. Cohen previously served as the Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), an Illinois utilities watchdog organization.

In naming Cohen to head the ICC, Blagojevich said:

This is an unprecedented time for consumers in Illinois. They’re getting squeezed on all sides by rising gasoline costs, heating costs and utilities seeking rate increases. It’s more important than ever that consumers’ interests are strongly represented at the decision-making table. I’m proud to put a proven advocate like Marty Cohen at the helm of the ICC.

Great! Chicagoist is thrilled that a strong consumer advocate will keep the energy companies in check.

But, wait a second... some people aren't all that thrilled about Cohen. State Senator Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) has said that Cohen will not be able to adequately represent the utilities industry because of his ties to the CUB, and compared his nomination to that of failed US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Geesh!

Business leaders aren't happy either. First off there are the television commercials by Citizens Organized for Reliable Electricity (CORE) in which the group warns of a California like energy crisis here in Illinois and the danger of letting Cohen serve as Chairman. CORE and others think Blago should have named a utilities executive as Chairman, which is kind of like of like letting the fat kid be in charge of all of your Halloween candy.

Cohen, who wants to change the cozy relationship between utilities and government, could face a confirmation vote by the Illinois Senate this week.