Petition demands firing of PSC members

Nathan Hager,

WASHINGTON – The prolonged power outages that many utility customers suffered through following the June 29 derecho have led to a call for heads to roll.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, D-At-Large, has started an online petition, demanding that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley fire the members of the Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric.

“Only the PSC can change Pepco, and only the governor can change the PSC,” the petition reads.

Riemer started the petition Friday. As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, it had gathered nearly 2,600 signatures.

“If I had gotten over a thousand, I think that would have been one heck of a statement to the governor,” says Riemer.

He charges the PSC with maintaining lax oversight of the utilities, starting with the days of outages following Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

“We have had catastrophic losses of power here in the Washington region almost every year since then, every other year at least, and really nothing was done,” Riemer says.

Asked to comment on the petition drive, O’Malley’s office pointed to a record $1 million fine imposed on Pepco last December for failing to maintain a reliable electric system, as well as hearings the PSC has planned into this latest round of outages, starting in August.

The statement from the governor’s office:

“While the Governor understands the frustration and anger of those citizens and businesses that have suffered repeated and prolonged outages, he reminds everyone of both the steps that have been taken in the recent past to hold utility companies liable and the deliberative process currently underway to evaluate, based on the data, the performance of the utilities’ during the recent derecho outage.”

Riemer plans to hold briefings of his own into the Public Service Commission. He says PSC Chairman Douglas Nazarian will appear before him at the County Council offices in Rockville Thursday.

“The governor has done a remarkable job on a lot of issues, and we’re hoping he will step up and really put something significant in place around our utility crisis,” Riemer says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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