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Stop Pepco Merger! Once Again, a Clarion Call

Back in June we addressed this then looming disaster for DC residential (and, for that matter, small business) electric utility ratepayers in this space. (See, “Pepco & Exelon Together Make Us Fear No Relief from the Heat.”)

We were then highly critical of the phony-baloney assurances and promises –- including a one-time $50 rebate (whoopty-do!) which they once again are promoting as a big benefit. Around here that might buy dinner for two, maybe for a family of four at Applebee’s.

And, just to add another curveball, no assurances that Pepco rates wouldn’t be at the regulatory trough poised to skyrocket once under the control of Exelon.

Subsequently, we were gratified to learn that the District’s Public Service Commission (PSC) soundly rejected the proposed take-over.

Shortly thereafter, however, ratepayers were blindsided by Mayor Bowser’s sudden about-face by which she and an influential gang of her cohorts –- office seekers who she has awarded with plum jobs, large donors to her (now suddenly due to overwhelming condemnation closed-down) political action committee, and large contractors trolling for DC government contracts -– has conned the PSC into re-opening the case and promising a quick reconsideration.

And just contemplate the profound effect of one of the most underhanded schemes included in this re-submitted proposal: If we thought that $50 was a slap in the face, consider, as the Washington Post reported on November 11th, the “provision in the merger deal to shield D.C. residents from rate hikes until 2019. The arrangement could result in a balloon hike for residential transmission rates of 45 percent that year. . . .” Notice how this scam is first characterized as a “shield” to protect until 2019 (which is only 38½ months from the day we are writing this) but then the other shoe drops –- which Pepco hopes nobody will hear dropping –- hitting residents with that 45 balloon hike!

How is it possible that the PSC, which in its original rejection of this anti-consumer boondoggle issued a thoroughly detailed and persuasive explanation of why the deal was clearly not in the public interest, suddenly seems to be ready to reverse course?

Could it be that the Mayor has engineered this unseemly 360-degree turn of events so that things are totally greased to overturn the initial rejection?

Doesn’t it appear seriously fishy that, as further reported by the Post, that “Sandra Mattavous-Frye, head of the Office of the People’s Counsel and once the merger’s most vocal critic [,] . . . reversed course and backed the merger, and Bowser reappointed Mattavous-Frye to a new term two weeks later”?

And why did, as the Post also reported the Community Power Network’s Anya Schoolman questioning, “DC Attorney General Karl Racine, who at first recused himself from the merger talks because his prior law firm had represented Pepco [now become] heavily involved in negotiating the final deal that Bowser supported.” Then just two weeks after the deal is consummated –- voila! –- Bowser is pushing the PSC to reconsider.

And, what is this deal and what does it have to do with keeping electric service rates affordable? Nothing, in our view. The deal calls for Pepco to contribute $25 million to the cost of building a soccer stadium and to help offset costs for another Bowser pet project, a practice arena for the basketball team. Oh yes, Pepco also gets naming rights, not just for the sports facilities, but also to name a street for itself!

Why should electricity ratepayers be, in effect, contributing to meeting the cost of building stadiums? What’s that got to do with keeping our lights on?

Our conclusion: Stop this thing in its tracks once and for all! Ratepayers can help by signing up to testify at the one and only PSC hearing on November 17th. Information on time, place and testifying is available from the PSC. Public Citizen will have a “green room” in the PSC building with refreshments and experts on hand to assist persons who will be testifying with suggested talking points.