Like many of you, we lost power after the recent storm and were not restored for five days. We lost hundreds of dollars in spoiled food; we had no telephone or internet service; we could get no accurate information about a time for restoration of service. We were hot, dirty and angry.
I’m still angry.
I believe that Pepco’s failure to provide reliable electric service has its roots in a corporate strategy that was born in the wake of electric utility deregulation (which, incidentally, I fought to prevent). It slashed its maintenance efforts and declined to invest in infrastructure. We have suffered the consequences over and over. In winter and summer. In storms and in calm.
Service is interrupted repeatedly and for unconscionably long periods. Pepco’s communications are inaccurate and ineffective. It cannot predict when service will be restored. Its telephone, mobile application and internet information make it appear that it is incapable of keeping track of who has power and who does not.
Two years ago the General Assembly passed legislation that required the Public Service Commission to set reliability standards for electric utilities, and it authorized the PSC to impose fines of $25,000 per customer, per day upon utilities that failed to meet the standards. These fines cannot be passed on to ratepayers.
Last year the PSC fined Pepco $1 million, touting it as the biggest fine in its history. That penalty was totally inadequate – mere pocket change for Pepco, which paid more than $240 million in dividends last year.
Senator Jim Rosapepe (D – Prince Georges County) and I have written to the PSC urging it to impose significant fines upon Pepco for its terrible performance this month. We’ve asked the PSC to fine Pepco more than $100 million, which is still less than 1% of what it could impose under the authority it now has.
The PSC should use the fine, in part, to fund a “Surge” program – one that will train and utilize citizens capable of helping dig out of the messes that Pepco can’t seem to clean up on its own. There are thousands of retired utility workers, military, law enforcement, fire and rescue veterans and others who could help in times of emergency.
You can read the letter from Senator Rosapepe and me, and you can sign our petition to the PSC by going here. Please help us send the message to the PSC – and to Pepco.