GSA: Pepco-Exelon deal not in the public’s best interest

WASHINGTON — Days before a deadline for accepting public comment in the proposed Pepco-Exelon merger, the General Services Administration has weighed in on the deal.

The Washington Post reports the GSA’s brief makes clear that the settlement agreement reached by District government and the applicants is not — in its current form — in the public interest.

In part, the brief says “the Settlement Agreement provides no direct and tangible benefits to non-residential customers.”

The GSA statement says the settlement agreement should not be found in the public interest unless regulators add conditions, including capping Pepco’s cost recovery on microgrid projects that are outlined in the agreement.

Weeks ago, the GSA backed out of hearings before the PSC, and at the time, indicated they would put something in the record.

“We will look for every available opportunity to make our position clear,” GSA officials wrote in a statement to WTOP.

In August, regulators at the Public Service Commission rejected the merger deal that was submitted, stating it was not in the public interest. Since then, Mayor Muriel Bowser engaged in discussions and arrived at a settlement agreement with Pepco that included millions of dollars for provisions that designed to benefit residents.

But the mayor’s efforts came under sharp criticism as opponents suggested there’s a “pay for play” culture in the District: citing timing of the negotiations and the Mayor’s initial opposition and then sudden support for the merger.

This week, WAMU reported that Earl “Chico” Horton, who led a political action committee in support of Mayor Bowser, had been hired by Exelon to lobby for the merger. Horton chaired FreshPAC, the committee that was shut down over questions regarding its operations and connections to the day-to-day operations of the Bowser administration.

The Washington Post reported two FreshPAC donors were among those who went with the Mayor on a trade mission to China: Each contributed $10,000 to the political action committee which has since been shut down.

Pepco ‘s Regional Vice President Myra Oppel says the Pepco-Exelon merger does have direct benefits for residents of the District.

She issued a statement that said “all customers, including the GSA, will benefit from merger commitments now before the D.C. Public Service Commission including improvements in service reliability, investment in sustainability and the economy of the District, and synergy savings that will go back to customers through rates that are lower than they would be absent the merger.”

Anya Schoolman, Executive Director of DC SUN, disputes the claim that the merger will be good for DC residents.  Schoolman says while the settlement agreement calls for rates to remain stable until 2019, that’s a short-term benefit.

With Chicago-based Exelon taking over Pepco, she insists “we’ll be stuck for a generation or two, or three, with a utility that really doesn’t have DC ratepayers as its priority.”

The PSC is expected to make a decision on the merger by early 2016.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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