Pepco customers demand PSC take action

ROCKVILLE, Md. – Upset that Pepco plans to ask for another rate hike, customers lashed out at Maryland regulators Tuesday night, demanding they take action.

Residents attending a Maryland Public Service Commission hearing on how utilities handled the June 29 derecho said they depended on the the PSC to protect them, but some said they believe the commission just gives in when Pepco wants to increase rates and pass along the costs to customers.

Pepco Holdings Chief Executive Officer Joseph Rigby told investors about the plans for the Maryland rate hike request just hours before the PSC hearing, but did not say how large the request would be. In D.C., Pepco filed a $42 million rate increase request that regulators will rule on next month. It would add $5 to the average residential bill.

Rigby said the higher rates “will be crucial to continue the pace of investment in Maryland.”

Commission Chairman Douglas Nazarian said Pepco had not yet made a formal request. It’s expected in the fall.

“We’ll deal with it when and if it is filed,” Nazarian told WTOP.

Maryland regulators last month granted Pepco an $18 million increase, far shy of the $68 million the company sought. The increase will add $2.02 to the average residential bill.

Rigby also said the company would extend its hiring freeze.

The PSC is investigating how Pepco and other power providers responded to a storm that left a million homes and businesses without electricity — some for a week.

Overwhelmingly, residents attending the Rockville hearing told the commission it wasn’t doing enough to help them.

“Pepco has the worst record in the country,” said Montgomery County resident Mary Caroline Coletti. “But we knew that already.”

“Please be responsive to the residents of Maryland and do everything within your power to ensure we receive reliable electric service,” said Susan Hoffman, the former mayor of Rockville.

Nazarian said the commission will fully vet Pepco’s performance.

“We’re going to match the facts up against the law and the regulations and our expectations, and we’re going to decide what the next best steps are,” Nazarian said.

Tuesday’s hearing is the first of eight.

Here are the dates and locations of the remaining hearings:

Potomac Electric Power Company

  • Wednesday, Aug. 8 – 7 p.m.
    Rennie Forum
    Prince George’s Community College
    301 Largo Rd.
    Largo, Md. 20772

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company

  • Monday, Aug. 13 – 7 p.m.
    Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building
    90 State Circle
    Annapolis, Md. 21401
  • Tuesday, Aug. 14 7 p.m.
    Paul C. Wolman Assembly Room, War Memorial Building
    101 N. Gay St.
    Baltimore, Md. 21202
  • Wednesday, Aug. 15 7 p.m.
    Banneker Room, George Howard Building
    3430 Court House Drive
    Ellicott City, Md. 21043
  • Thursday, Aug. 16 – 7 p.m.
    Hearing Room No. 106, Baltimore County Office Building
    111 West Chesapeake Ave.
    Towson, Md. 21202

Potomac Edison Company

  • Monday, Aug. 20 – 7 p.m.
    Winchester Hall
    12 East Church St.
    Frederick, Md. 21701

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc.

  • Wednesday, Aug. 22 – 7 p.m.
    Commissioners Hearing Room, Charles County Government Building
    200 Baltimore St.
    La Plata, Md. 20646

Written comments will also be accepted up to Sept. 10 to the following address:

David J. Collins
Executive Secretary
Maryland Public Service Commission
William Donald Schaefer Tower
6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21202.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate Ryan and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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