Should Pepco be allowed to increase rates for Maryland customers?
The AARP doesn’t think so, and neither did the Maryland residents who showed up at AARP's town hall-style meeting on Sunday to discuss Pepco’s request for permission from the Maryland Public Services Commission to collect over $67 million more from Maryland customers.
"Our position is: 'No more money until you improve reliability,' " AARP Maryland State Director Hank Greenberg said at the meeting, which was held at the .
Pepco is asking for the rate increase to “cover its expenses of providing service and [to] have an opportunity to earn a fair return on its investor-supplied capital,” according to Pepco’s rate increase application, which can be downloaded from the PSC’s website.
Pepco’s “present electric rates are not just and reasonable and do not provide an opportunity for the [company] to earn a reasonable return on the fair value of [its] property devoted to electric delivery service,” the application continued.
But, “the rate payer should not be paying for improvements up front,” AARP Maryland Associate State Director of Advocacy Tammy Bresnahan said.
Furthermore, with the economy in a downturn and many Maryland residents experiencing furloughs, slashed salaries and “no cost-of-living adjustment[s] for years while the utility company still makes a profit,” the rate increase should not be allowed by the PSC, Bresnahan added.
The state’s older residents—many of whom are on fixed incomes—are particularly vulnerable to rapid increases in energy prices, she added, which is why AARP—formerly known as the American Association for Retired Persons—is helping residents mobilize to oppose the rate increase.
The increase—which Pepco requested from the PSC in January—comes at a particularly bad time for Maryland residents in suburban Washington, DC, because of the many power outages that have plagued the area in recent years.
In December, the PSC fined Pepco $1 million for poor service, .
Pepco should “make services more reliable and then petition for a rate increase,” Bresnahan said.
Maryland District 18 Delegate Jeffrey Waldstreicher agreed, stating that “asking for a rate increase is abhorrent to us.”
AARP is not the only opponent of such a high rate increase. The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel is also against it.
The OPC is likely to recommend that the rate increase be only around $12 million, rather than the over $67 million that Pepco has requested permission to collect, OPC Deputy Terri Czarski said.
Pepco just doesn’t need that much, Czarski added. “They budget [for reliability improvements] but don’t spend [all of it].”
“Over the last few years, “no utility in the state has gotten what they’ve asked for,” Czarski added.
To voice opposition to the rate increase, email David Collins through the PSC's website.
The PSC will hold two public hearings on Pepco's rate increase request:
- Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Center Council Chambers (City Hall) of College Park (4500 Knox Rd.)
- Monday, June 25, at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Montgomery County Office Building (101 Monroe St., Rockville)