WASHINGTON – The proposed deal to seal the merger between Pepco and power giant Exelon led to heated words Friday, as D.C. council members scrutinized the reappointment of a woman charged with representing the interests of city residents.
While Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee Chair Vincent Orange said he expects Sandra Mattavous-Frye to be confirmed for another term, council members Mary Cheh and Elissa Silverman raised questions about whether the settlement that Pepco and Exelon agreed to with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office is truly in the public interest.
“The implication that her reappointment was more or less held in hostage until this settlement — that’s far from the truth,” Orange said toward the end of Friday’s public roundtable discussion.
But Cheh pressed Mattavous-Frye on the issue, saying Bowser announced the reappointment shortly after the Office of the People’s Counsel backed an agreement to give residential ratepayers relief from rate hikes through 2019.
“There are some things that just don’t add up as far as I’m concerned,” Cheh said about the supposed benefits of the settlement deal.
Silverman says that promising relief through 2019 simply means there will be a huge jump when all the rate increases approved over the intervening years cumulatively hit bills.
Mattavous-Frye doubts it would be that significant.
Cheh argued that Pepco and Exelon’s promises for 2016 are less than Pepco’s existing standards, which are beyond the minimums outlined by the D.C. Public Service Commission.
The commission initially rejected the Pepco-Exelon merger, but is now set to reconsider. The panel is the only thing holding up the merger after other states, including Virginia and Maryland, approved the deal.
Orange says the settlement deal is a significant improvement over the original proposal: “I’ve been taught when both parties don’t get what they want, but it’s something that you can live with, that you have a good settlement.”
Cheh calls that perspective shortsighted.
“I can no longer really refer to you as the people’s counsel,” she said in response. “I can call you Exelon’s counsel, I can call you Pepco’s counsel.”
Mattavous-Frye said that Cheh is certainly entitled to a point of view.
If the D.C. Public Service Commission rejects the deal, it would impact Pepco customers and potentially others in Maryland and elsewhere.
Opponents argued this week that there should be an ethics review of the settlement deal.
Bowser said Friday that there was nothing untoward about the deal.
The Public Service Commission is scheduled to hold two days of public comment on the merger next week, but despite 18 hours being allotted over two days, the commission warns that some people who are interested in speaking may not be able to.
Speakers can sign up in advance for the first-come first-served speaking time, or instead submit written statements.