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We Endorse DC Attorney General Racine

On May 8th we were again reminded why we have admired the outstanding leadership of Karl Racine who, during his first elected term, has turned the District’s Office of the Attorney General (AG) into an aggressive advocate on behalf of DC’s citizens. The high competence and professionalism he has engendered among his amazing legal and support staffs needs to be publicly acknowledged for the significant cases brought and won along with major settlements and initiatives undertaken  for the direct benefit of us all.

Space does not allow for a thorough recitation of the AG’s accomplishments. Instead, we urge a ramble through the office’s excellently designed and easily navigated website (especially on the home page scroll down to the “What we’re working on” feature); what one will see will confirm our assessment.

Getting back to what it was on May 8th that motivated us to write about the AG’s accomplishments was the notice of settlement by the AG and the DC Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC, another unusually effective advocate for us citizens) with AltaGas, the Canadian company which had last year acquired Washington Gas. Regular readers of our commentaries may recall that we blasted the takeover in this space last December as it was then announced.

Other “nothingburgers,” we highlighted that OPC, in its brief filed with the DC Public Service Commission (PSC), stated its opposition noting, among other defects, that  the “direct economic benefits to ratepayers would be very limited and almost entirely restricted to [Washington Gas] and AltaGas’s proposal to provide a one-time bill credit to District ratepayers totaling $12.25 million.”

What this so-called benefit would mean for the average DC customer, we pointed out, would be about half of what had been touted by Pepco three years ago as a biggie for its customers — then somewhere in the range of $50+ or thereabouts! As we sarcastically commented in our November 2015 editorial, “Around here that might buy dinner for two. . . .”

Among other benefits to rate payers and to the District, the AltaGas settlement provides, according to the announcement, “almost $26 million in total credits for residential and non-residential ratepayers, resulting in a one-time credit of $150 for each residential ratepayer in the District [and] a two-year freeze on rate increases for all ratepayers. The entire settlement agreement is available here.

Without a doubt, the AG and OPC brought about a far superior deal: instead of the meaningless one-time bill credit of a measly $12.25 (maybe just enough for two of McDonald’s “Premium McWrap Sweet Chili Chicken (Grilled or Crispy)” ratepayers will receive $137.50 more than first offered!

Among yet other benefits Racine & OPC extracted include a $6 million commitment to DC to support workforce development programs; a commitment to ensuring that at least 90% of Washington Gas’ contract work force is covered by union protections; and allocating $4.2 million for energy efficiency and energy conservation initiatives, with a primary focus on assisting low- and limited-income residents who are living in affordable multifamily units.

Moving on, but still staying with the utilities topic, remember our reference to the 2015 Pepco scam that we denounced at the time? Well, even though the fake benefits never got righted, at least the AG has been watching out for us should an opportunity arise to intervene in some new Pepco matter.

As announced last month, in addition to certain benefits directly lowering DC’s street lighting costs, Pepco has agreed to pass on to DC ratepayers a significant share — $24.1 million — of the tax cut it received from the recent Congressional action which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. This will translate to at least some reduction reflected in monthly bills as early as July.

As stated above, there are so many accomplishments we do not have the space to here to review, but they are definitely big and of real benefit to everyone. We have focused on the gas and electric issues mainly because they affect everyone — homeowners and renters alike; also because the Washington Gas and Pepco cases have been something of a special cause célèbre for us as our earlier editorializing attests.

But we would be remiss in not mentioning that along with the really big stuff, the AG’s office also has also kept its eye on the small stuff, what we reported last December about the harshly worded order reversing the highly controversial action taken by the Dupont Circle ANC improperly censuring one of the commissioners earlier in the Fall.

There is another aspect of AG Racine’s work that sets him in a special class of top state AGs. We refer to the respect he has garnered from AGs around the country who have acknowledged his legal acumen and tireless work – including joining in cases against the federal government’s attempts to run roughshod over the rights of citizens not only here but throughout the country. Examples abound:

Taking the lead in filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 10 states and DC in California’s challenge to the Trump Administration’s efforts to cut off federal public safety grants to sanctuary jurisdictions; condemns new federal program that lets employers who have committed wage theft off the hook; joins 18-state coalition to defend national auto emission standards; joins coalition suing the EPA for ignoring responsibility under the Clean Air Act to control methane pollution; joins on new Supreme Court brief calling for end to Trump’s travel ban; joins legal challenge to citizenship question to be included on the 2020 census. This last action is clearly of direct importance to huge numbers of our fellow citizens and to the District given the negative impact that this is likely to have not just on individuals but the District’s share of federal funding.

Considering all that we have discussed above, we sincerely believe that we have made a strong case or the voters next month to cast their ballots in favor of Karl Racine for another term as our esteemed Attorney general.