EDITORIAL: Watchful eye is really needed

It seems that public utilities are in the public eye quite a bit these days.

If it’s not the installation and cost of sewer or water services, it’s the increased rates for Delmarva Power customers. If we’re not discussing road condiditions, we’re talking about road improvements.

Add the Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC) to the mix.

The DEC is sending ballots to its 65,000 Kent and Sussex County customers this week, asking them to vote to be member-regulated, rather than being under the eye of the Public Service Commission. The self-regulation would save the customers a lot of money, according to officials of the DEC, and would save on a lot of bureacratic red tape for the DEC to go through when changes need to be made.

While we all want less government interference in our lives, this one causes us a pause.

See, we’re not going to say that the DEC would become an outlaw organization preying on its customers without regulation, but we do worry about any public-service organization regulating itself. We’re also concerned that, since electric distribution is often contingent on geographic location for individuals, where does a disenfranchised customer turn for an alternative?

We see that already with customers of Delmarva Power, and the recent drastic increase in rates for their customers. Unless the people are members of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce or aligned with another group, customers in Delmarva Power’s regions cannot turn to, say, the DEC for their electricity.

Governmental regulation in any capacity is rarely the most efficient means of getting things done, but when it comes to a situation of public service — and the public service of electricity has become an absolute neccessity for residents and businesses, alike — it is a glaring need.

Now, it does not have to go to the extent of price-fixing or anything that extreme, but there does need to be somebody the electric supply companies are accountable to. When any interest that’s imperative to the public is only monitored by itself, there is a problem.