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Leggett, Baker Respond to Citizen Outrage, Demand Power Companies Improve

Seven Maryland county executives, responding to pressure from residents, wrote a letter to the Public Service Commission about the performance of the state's power companies.

The county executives of Maryland’s seven largest counties, including Montgomery and Prince George's, issued a letter to demand changes from the area’s power companies after the June 29 storm that left some 443,000 residents without electricity in record heat.  

, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, as well as four other county executives and the mayor of Baltimore City, told the PSC that it is time for power companies to evaluate changes.

“As elected leaders of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions, we stand ready to work together to make sure major metropolitan areas are not disabled by a single weather event, whether it involves snow, rain, ice or wind,” the executives wrote.

The letter also proposes discussion of underground wire placement, as well as examination of Pepco and BGE's staffing levels and quality of their above-ground equipment.

Due to the heat wave that followed the storm, many counties and jurisdictions attempted to assist residents still without power but were unable to do so because power companies refused to provide specific addresses with outages, the letter says.

The recent death of an elderly Prince George’s County man brought the storm death toll in Maryland up to 19 on Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun reported

Officials say in the letter that street-level information, which utility companies would not disclose, would have provided critical help in their efforts to fulfill public safety responsibilities.

“Utility companies can and should provide detailed outage information to local governments,” they wrote.  

Montgomery County Council President , citing the lengths of the outages, the “appalling communications” and data discrepancies.

The morning of June 30, 210,000 of the 305,000 Montgomery County Pepco customers and nearly 200,000 residents of Prince George's County reportedly had no power.

Two days after the storm hit, and about 68,000 residents were still without electricity after four days, according to Pepco.

Pepco data showed that in Prince George’s County, 92,155 residents – about 42 percent – were without power by Sunday and .

Recent reports of Pepco rate increases have also contributed to customers’ feeling of discontent with the company.

The Washington Post reported that Pepco has proposed a 4 percent rate hike that could see Maryland customers paying up to $5.50 more on their bill. The PSC has not yet made a decision regarding the increase. 

Leggett said in a press conference that he thinks the PSC should consider storm response in their decision. 

“I know that you must have clear evidence based on performance and that is judged on results in a crisis situation,” he said.

According to The Washington Post, Berliner said he thinks Pepco has requested that the PSC wait on the decision in attempt to put some distance between its decision and customers' anger.

“I think they feel the timing of this rate increase request is particularly unfortunate given the criticism of their work,” he told The Post.

In addition, 9 News Now reported that Pepco and BGE are due to the money they lost when they couldn’t charge customers during the storm.

“It’s the law,” Pepco spokesperson Bob Hainey told 9 News Now. “It’s called bill stabilization.” 

Maryland People’s Chief Paula Carmody told 9 News Now that the utility companies can only collect compensation for the first 24 hours of the outage, which could amount to a charge of less than a dollar for the average customer.

Joe July 12, 2012 at 03:10 AM
PEPCO and the Public Service Commission add injury to insult with the company not only cutting down hundreds of trees, and mangling hundreds of others, but then charging YOU, the customer in the dark, tossing out the contents of your fridge, with a fee so they aren't hurt by the loss of payment for power they didn't provide.
macadoodle July 12, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Why don't the politicos, ranging from Gov O'Malley to Ike Leggett to County Council members to the Delegate and State Senate legislators in Montgomery County read the following article about the true state of affairs in PEPCO? And please check how little PEPCO pays in taxes and how much its executives make annually while cutting rank and file. CEO is getting a salary of $8 million a year. http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/ibew-local-pepco-power-outages-due-ch
MS July 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Pepco is a privately-owned corporation that owns and operates the local electricity distribution infrastructure in DC and suburban Maryland. Pepco is owned by an energy corporation, Potomac Holdings, Inc. (PHI), whose stock is publicly traded. You may see PHI's website at http://www.pepcoholdings.com . Pepco is regulated by the Maryland and DC Public Service Commissions. (Think of it as a government contractor.) The MD and DC Public Service Commissions impose detailed regulations on Pepco and Pepco operates to, or attempts to operate to, those requirements and standards. If the Public Service Commissions require specific steps or performance standards, Pepco obliges. If you want Pepco to operate to higher standards, get the DC and Maryland Public Service Commissions to tighten their performance standards. If you want Pepco to "harden" it's infrastructure even more than it is now doing by burying more power lines underground, get your Public Service Commissions to require it (and be prepared to pay for it in higher distribution fees). The ownership of Pepco is really not the issue and there is no necessity for the government to take over ownership. If you invest in mutual funds or have a pension program that invests in mutual funds, you may already indirectly own PHI stock and therefore be an owner of Pepco without you even realizing it!
Resident July 12, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Who nominates members of the Commission? Who appoints them? And do they represent non-profit as well as for-profit entities? They have, in the past, rolled over and played dead like Pepco's pet dog. Not sure they will this time, but maybe...
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