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Posted at 9:18 AM ET, 01/31/2011

O'Malley to back 'reliability standards' for Pepco, other utilities

By John Wagner

O'Malley measures.jpgMaryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will back legislation imposing reliability standards on Pepco and other utilities that would require companies to pay fines for poor performance that would be directed to affected ratepayers.

O'Malley outlined his position in a letter over the weekend in which he expressed "anger" about the large number of Pepco customers left without power in the wake of last week's snowstorm.

"Despite earnest promises, numerous press releases, and even a six-point plan, families in our State woke up, for the third morning in a row, to a cold, dark house, with Pepco advising them that service should be restored by 11 p.m. tomorrow night," O'Malley wrote to Pepco Holdings Chairman Joseph Rigby on Saturday. "Five days in the dark is simply not acceptable."

In the letter, O'Malley says he will also ask the Public Service Commission, the panel that regulates Maryland utilities, to hold a hearing on Pepco's performance.

O'Malley says he is developing legislation with Del. Brian Feldman (D-Mongomery), the chairman of his county's legislation delegation.

"I am also outraged that your customer communication remains unacceptable; the outage map posted to your website crashed yet again, leaving customers seeking information about their outage in the dark," O'Malley's letter says. "Finally, the reports of Pepco's slow response in requesting assistance from other jurisdictions is outrageous and demands further inquiry."

We'll let you know Pepco's response as soon as we get it.

By John Wagner  | January 31, 2011; 9:18 AM ET
Categories:  Governor, John Wagner  
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Comments

This sounds nice, I'm all for it, however, the way state regulators work in Md. it will be the next Ice Age before anything happens. BTW will this mean that PEPCO, and other utilities, will have to reimburse their customers for spoiled food or property or goods damaged or destroyed due to lack of electricity?

Posted by: VikingRider | January 31, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

i dont blame pepco for the power outages in MoCo, i blame the residents of Moco because the residents love there trees so much and dont want to pay to bury the power lines you cant have it both ways high wind heavy snow/ice will bring down trees onto the power lines

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | January 31, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

People who work for Pepco won't say this, but the problem is created by the people in Montgomery County who don't want the trees trimmed to stay clear of the power lines. Thus, tree branches fall and knock out the power. But, it's easier for the liberals there to blame the big bad power company.

Posted by: johnfchick1 | January 31, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

If he is serious, something I doubt, regulators should have a performance card ready for their next rate hearing.

Posted by: slim21 | January 31, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The fines will be paid by the customers. Every time I hear one of these proposals it is obvious that the politicians have no clue where Pepco gets it's money from. Just a back door way to screw the middle income people once again.

Posted by: Pilot1 | January 31, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Do these politicians have any idea how companies work? If you start fining PEPCO for poor service what PEPCO will do is add a surcharge on every customers bill to cover future fines. That's what any respnsible would do. So in short EPECO will not be paying the fines its customers would.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | January 31, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"Just a back door way to screw the middle income people once again."

Yeah, and does anyone REALLY believe that the fines collected will be "redirected to customers"? Once the state or county collects it, it will disappear.

"BTW will this mean that PEPCO, and other utilities, will have to reimburse their customers for spoiled food or property or goods damaged or destroyed due to lack of electricity?"

Why don't you move back home w/ mama so she can take care of every little thing for you? Maybe she has a generator.

Pose it another way- if you have a wreck and take out a power pole, are you going to pay for Pepco's cost to repair the lines, replace the pole, and reimburse everyone in the neighborhood who lost power due to the accident? My guess is no.


Posted by: BEEPEE | January 31, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

So will the state (ie.Omalley) face a fine if the roads aren't cleared of snow? If schools don't improve? If crime goes up? If the budget isn't met? What an A** hole.

Posted by: curiousGeorge4 | January 31, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

DC and Maryland introduced electricity choice a few years ago allowing Pepco, Allegheny Power, BGE, and Delmarva Power's customers to choose the energy company that supplies the electricity delivered to them by their electric utility. When you enroll with a low cost supplier, you can get your electricity at a lower price. But so far, only about 10% of eligible residential customers have bothered to do this.

The first thing people concerned with the cost of their electricity bill should do is to enroll for lower priced electricity. People who don't do it are throwing away money.

To see a table of what Pepco, BGE, Allegheny Power, and Delmarva Power currently charge their typical residential customers for electricity supply and the prices at which you can get it for, go to www.lowerelectricityrates.com .

It takes about 4 minutes and costs nothing to lower the price of your electricity supply.

Posted by: mstrotz1 | January 31, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

DC and Maryland introduced electricity choice a few years ago allowing Pepco, Allegheny Power, BGE, and Delmarva Power's customers to choose the energy company that supplies the electricity delivered to them by their electric utility. When you enroll with a low cost supplier, you can get your electricity at a lower price. But so far, only about 10% of eligible residential customers have bothered to do this.

The first thing people concerned with the cost of their electricity bill should do is to enroll for lower priced electricity. People who don't do it are throwing away money.

To see a table of what Pepco, BGE, Allegheny Power, and Delmarva Power currently charge their typical residential customers for electricity supply and the prices at which you can get it for, go to www.lowerelectricityrates.com .

It takes about 4 minutes and costs nothing to lower the price of your electricity supply.

Posted by: mstrotz1 | January 31, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I have a hard time believe he sincerely cares about the residents in MD. I think he probably has some personal experience with these issues, perhaps from a friend or family member. Regardless, I do believe PEPCO is at least trying, but I think the President Thomas Graham is handling this all wrong. I heard him on the news talking about how residence NEED to understand that when 3000 wires go down, that it will take days to restore power. This may be true, but he comes off very condescending. Residents are simply never going to understand the plight that PEPCO must go through. They will only know that they are without power. If he wants to take a better approach, he should just simply say we're trying our best and keep his mouth shut. The last thing residents want to hear is someone from this company making suggestions.

Posted by: meatkins | January 31, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Nothing will change at Pepco until CEO Rigby, V.P. Graham, and the entire board of directors is replaced with new management. Look, Rigby is an accountant, that is his background -- thus, he watches the bottom line and takes care of the shareholders, rather than investing in much needed infrastructure. PEPCO needs professional management to rehabilitate this failed company. PEPCO pays an over the top dividend yielding 5.8%, much higher than the utility industry average. Imagine what could be done with the $1 billion dollars that has been paid to shareholders in the last four years.
D.C. and Maryland residents are made to suffering while Pepco executives and shareholders get rich.

Posted by: koolemail | January 31, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The Govenor sounds like James Taggart from 'Atlas Shrugged'. What can the govenor do if the powers that be at Pepco decide they don't want to be in the energy business anymore. You cannot fine the producers and the entrepenuers for doing their business they way the see fit unless the govenor wants to take them over by force and run them. Madness.

Posted by: civilrightist | January 31, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

johnfchick1, go f*** yourself.

Posted by: fmamstyle | January 31, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

All of you blaming the residents of Montgomery County are just plain ignorant. The problem is we are losing power on perfectly calm days and PEPCO is using trees as an easy scapegoat. PEPCO is not reinvesting profits back into the company to upgrade its equipment. I beleive that is taught in Business 101. You all are simply blaming the residents of Montgomery County because A)You don't like the political climate of the county or B)You can't afford to live there so you choose to take cheap shots.

Posted by: stuckintraffictoo | January 31, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

What I don't seem to understand is how is Montgomery County one of the richest counties in the USA, but have the most damn power outages? And we aren't talking power outages during snow storms, I'm talking power outages on warm, sunny days. Power sporadically going out for no apparent reason at all. To me, this says that the equipment is raggedy and is in serious need of an upgrade. Pepco is a terrible company, there are immensely horrible with their customer service and even more so at getting power turned on in a timely fashion. I have lived in Northern Virginia for about 28 years and can count on both hands how many times the power went out; whats in even better is that the power was NEVER out for more than a couple of hours each time. All in all, Pepco is a pathetic excuse for a power company and I am terribly sorry that I have to deal with them.

Posted by: Tiffany123 | January 31, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

It' funny that O'Malley comments on someone else's poor performance. Perhaps he should look in the mirror.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | January 31, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

All MoCo needs to do is come up with a way to pay for burying their lines. Until then, they are doomed to repeat this scene over and over.

Posted by: shanks1 | January 31, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"i dont blame pepco for the power outages in MoCo, i blame the residents of Moco because the residents love there trees so much and dont want to pay to bury the power lines you cant have it both ways high wind heavy snow/ice will bring down trees onto the power lines"

===================================

Uhm...excuse me? It is not the residents' fault at all. It has to do with the county not being diligent about trimming trees. Do the bloody research. There are trees from the last time we lost power, that got struck by lightning, they are dead trees and the county says that they will do something about it in 6 months. So no, don't blame the residents. Here's another kick in the teeth, PEPCO blames the County, the County blames PEPCO regarding trees. The county can't do anything until PEPCO clears the lines from branches, PEPCO also leaves branches hanging on the damn wires. So yes, PEPCO is to blame, so is the county.

Posted by: ChicoPorter | January 31, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"i dont blame pepco for the power outages in MoCo, i blame the residents of Moco because the residents love there trees so much and dont want to pay to bury the power lines you cant have it both ways high wind heavy snow/ice will bring down trees onto the power lines"

===================================

Uhm...excuse me? It is not the residents' fault at all. It has to do with the county not being diligent about trimming trees. Do the bloody research. There are trees from the last time we lost power, that got struck by lightning, they are dead trees and the county says that they will do something about it in 6 months. So no, don't blame the residents. Here's another kick in the teeth, PEPCO blames the County, the County blames PEPCO regarding trees. The county can't do anything until PEPCO clears the lines from branches, PEPCO also leaves branches hanging on the damn wires. So yes, PEPCO is to blame, so is the county.

Posted by: ChicoPorter | January 31, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

@mstrotz1
You're talking about generation, not distribution, imbecile. You're stuck with the local distribution monopoly, (in theory) fully regulated by the State, as it always has been. This is where the problems are.

Posted by: Wallenstein | January 31, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

For all these years I had been advised that PEPCO stood for "Potomac Electric Power Company." Now I know otherwise - it really stands for "PLease Ensure Power Comes On."

Posted by: bshulman | January 31, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

For all these years I had been advised that PEPCO stood for "Potomac Electric Power Company." Now I know otherwise - it really stands for "PLease Ensure Power Comes On."

Posted by: bshulman | January 31, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

For all these years I had been advised that PEPCO stood for "Potomac Electric Power Company." Now I know otherwise - it really stands for "PLease Ensure Power Comes On."

Posted by: bshulman | January 31, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Here's an "in the dark" question:
What good is Pepco's web site and/or outage
map if we're in the dark. Meaning no power
to turn our computer on? Their website is worthless. Their automated telephone system
is barely above worthless. The only thing that works and is comforting is seeing a Pepco truck go down my street.

Posted by: lenarzt | January 31, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

PEPCO should be investigated for the malfunctioning meters, which they don't acknowledge. My bill recently suggest that something is not right. The accuracy of the meter readings is my biggest concern.

Posted by: 189AROD | January 31, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

O'Malley and all the other MD metro politicians will say the same thing about (and TO) Pepco, with a WINK and a NOD.
How many of the members of PEPCO's Board of Directors were financial "supporters" of "some" local elections..hmm?

Posted by: CountytaxpayingCHNII | January 31, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"Why don't you move back home w/ mama so she can take care of every little thing for you? Maybe she has a generator."

BEEPEE: My elderly neighbor is on oxygen for his emphysema. Having electrical power is critical for many reasons other than keeping food. There are many people who rely on it for their health. There are many who, like me, both live and work in our homes and lose income when the power goes out. It's a hard economy. Your spiteful remarks reveal a tiny, shortsighted mind.

Adding insult to injury, Pepco overcharged me by 300% on my electricity bill due to an incorrect meter reading. This happened right before I went without electricity for four days, meaning I lost jobs I could have otherwise done. With no confidence in Pepco's repeatedly broken promises of when power would be restored, I finally gave in and spent money I didn't have to stay in a hotel, just to escape the 45-degree temperature in my house. Three hours after I checked in, my lights came back on. *headdesk*

mstrotz1: It doesn't make any difference whom you pay your electricity bill to if Pepco is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure. Yes, you can choose another power company, but when the power goes out, it's still Pepco that is responsible for fixing it. Or not, as the case may be.

Posted by: gwynn898 | January 31, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, more nanny state feel good legislation. There are two choices, either cut the trees or deal with power outages. Whining, like the governor is doing, will not keep wires from falling.

My experience with pepco led me to install a back up generator that runs my HVAC, refrigerator, and lights. I cook with gas and have a lighter when power quits and the electric start does not work.

Even that being said. I have had 17 days out of 365 with no power.

4 days during the blizzard feb 2010
7 days during the insane thunderstorm during the summer 2010
2 days from a tree falling over in my neighbor hood
and 4 days from this last one.

That translates to 4.6% of time with no service and 95.4% with service. If you expect to keep the trees and have 100% uptime then you are a true unreasonable person.

I am going to go with 95.4 percent is not as bad as you all are whining about. Plus legislating instant gratification feel good punitive sanctions on Pepco for dealing with acts of god less than your unreasonable expectations looks rather whiny as well.

Why were all you unprepared people out on the road abandoning cars, blocking the roads so the electric crews could not get through for 48 hours? How did Pepco make you all block their progress for two days?

Posted by: thelaw1 | January 31, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

We sometimes lose power when usage is very high due to everyone cranking the AC to the Max. Those outages don't last that long.

Anyone else count how many days they have lost power? I would be happy to calulate your uptime versus downtime.

I live in MoCo, I love my trees, and I have 95.4% uptime.

Posted by: thelaw1 | January 31, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

What we really need is a "reliability" standard for politicians.

This current one has a remarkable penchant for playing fast and loose with Maryland taxpayers money.

Posted by: 15of18 | January 31, 2011 9:31 PM | Report abuse

To blackforestcherry:

Ditto

Posted by: 15of18 | January 31, 2011 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of anyone's opinion that it must be the Montgomery County's liberal residents loving their trees (a ridiculous assertion) that created this problem, the fact remains that PEPCO has repeatedly made promises that they never keep.

In addition to that, there is no excuse for their lack of communication to their customers, for them not providing LIVING agents to handle calls, for their online website to be down, and for their consistent promises to do something by a certain day only to have that time come and go without relief.

As to the trees, they were there long before PEPCO ever existed, and many other communities manage to have both trees and electrical service.

PEPCO generates enough money to do a better job, both at repairing after a storm, and at maintenance, NOT to forget also that they should be telling/talking to their customers.

Most people are understanding about a power loss of a day or so, when it goes to the fifth day, they have a right to be upset.

That is true whether you are a liberal or a conservative - but come to think of it - maybe all that hot air the conservatives blow around is sufficient to keep them warm and cozy.

Posted by: albert_chappell | January 31, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

@thelaw1 - couldn't agree more. I live in HoCo with BGE and they too have trouble keeping up eith the idiots who plant trees under power lines. Within a 2 mile radius if me I have at least five houses with large overgrown cedars and white pines iaround the lines. They were not there before the lines. Idiots put them there. When did it become a power companies job to police private propert owners? They are the ones that should be fined if their trees take down a line. The whiners will say, "But it's not safe for us to trim them." It was at one point and you were too lazy. Now it is your responsibility to work with Pepco or private contractor to take care of it. Geez people - how about a little personal responsibility.

Posted by: biketraveller22 | February 1, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

All those fortunate top percentiles who live in some of the wealthiest zip codes of OUR great COUNTRY can and should get generators from the tax breaks given to them from Repulicorps....by gosh with any TAX payers math we pay for them.....BTW what is the " Old Line State and the Free State" policy and frequency of trimming the tree$ in the STATES Right of Ways?

Posted by: ohwell1 | February 1, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

fmamstyle, Wallenstein

Ya'll should be ashamed of yourselves. No need for the nastiness.

Posted by: ace2233 | February 1, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Look, PEPCO dropped the ball. If I were a PEPCO stockholder or on their board of directors I think I would push for some major management changes. I mean every customer who has lost power, is costing the company money. What I want to see is the company replacing the ancient wooden poles with steel or something else that will stand through storms. I also want to see them working to reinforce their transformers and put in so calaled "snart ststens" that automatically locates breaks, and reroutes the power. In addtion, they need to hire, train, and equip, more line crews and full time tree trimmers that work all year round. They need to fix their systems before summer, thunderstorms cause more damage than snowstorms...at least if I lose power in winter, I can put the beer outside to keep it cold.

Posted by: VikingRider | February 1, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Montgomery County has a history of rejecting redundant power distribution.

Consequently when they get a bad storm everything shuts down and stays shut down until it's all fixed.

Fortunately I don't live there. We have underground wiring, redundant service, and my power utility draws on coal fired plants, oil, atomic energy and Hydro Quebec.

Someday I pray Montgomery County and the rest of Souvrn' Maryland gets representative democracy and politicians smart enough to know that if you stifle innovation and the use of advanced technology you will end up without power in a big storm.

Naw, that's too much to pray for. Let's instead pray for the bridges over the Potomac falling in the day all those Maryland people turn into refugees trying to get into Virginia.

We don't need their kind.

Posted by: muawiyah | February 1, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

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