Counties Support Clarification in Acquiring Street Lights from Utilities

On March 28, 2023, Associate Policy Director Brianna January submitted testimony to the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee in support of HB 459 – Public Utilities – Street Lighting Equipment – Acquisitions and Reporting (County and Municipal Street Lighting Investment Act). The bill advanced from the House with broad support on March 16.

HB 459 clarifies the process by which localities can acquire street light equipment through purchase or condemnation, effectively empowering local governments to pursue the street lighting arrangement most appropriate for their communities.

In the past, prohibitively high costs have prevented counties from taking advantage of the General Assembly’s previous delegation of authority allowing local governments to purchase street light equipment directly from private utilities. HB 459 seeks to remedy this by clarifying the definition and calculation of fair market value for the lights and equipment.

Shifting the ownership of streetlights from utilities to local government has reportedly improved services and lowered costs for neighborhoods across the country, and by setting fair market value rates on the procurement of these resources, HB 459 aims to deliver these same promises to Marylanders.

From the MACo Testimony:

In 2007, the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing local governments to acquire and manage street light equipment from private utilities. However, few local governments have successfully done so since then, with the two parties unable to reach agreements on the fair market value of streetlighting equipment. Historically, utility companies have quoted prohibitively high costs when engaging with counties and municipalities on potential purchase of equipment… By setting fair value market rates, HB 459 will level the playing field for local governments and will help counties achieve better services at lower costs and implement energy-efficient street lighting – a welcome change for counties, Maryland taxpayers, and the environment.

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