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Posted at 2:38 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Pepco rebuffs calls for a rate freeze

By Hamil R. Harris

Pepco executives rebuffed a proposal by Prince George's County Council Tuesday calling for financial compensation -- or a rate freeze -- to customers after the Jan. 26 snow and ice storm that left thousands of customers without power.

At a council hearing, Council member Karen Toles asked Pepco President Thomas Graham to consider freezing rates in the wake of the company’s problems following the storm. But in an interview after the hearing, Graham told The Washington Post the company is not considering a moratorium and that there are no immediate plans for a rate increase.
  
“I hear my customers,” said Graham, who added that the utility has embarked on a five-year “reliability plan” to upgrade the way it delivers electricity to consumers. “My company feels that is a top priority. We are going to execute this plan, but it is going to take time.”

At the hearing, the utility executives acknowledged Pepco's response following the storm was not up to par. “We know that we were not meeting customer demands,” said Graham during a hearing also attended by two Pepco executives. The executives distributed documents on how the utility plans to ensure better results following weather emergencies.

While Graham told the council that Pepco is committed "to do a better job at restoring service to our customers," Council member Eric Olson said that in his tenure he has never witnessed so much "anger and frustration" among his constituents.

"A lot of my residents said it has been too little to late," Olson added.

“We know that we need to do a better job meeting our customers' expectations,” said Graham as he concluded his remarks. “We have a plan. We are going to execute the plan and there is high degree of accountability in the company to make this happen,”

Council member Leslie Johnson said that many of her constituents also are not happy with Pepco because of the rising utility costs and spotty service. “They are sick and tired of seeing their bills go up and seeing a lapse in service,” she said.

On Monday, the Montgomery Council scolded the utility over its response and its dividends for investors. One council member said that Pepco has lavished its shareholders with dividends while shortchanging spending on maintenance.

Citing figures by by his staff from Pepco filings, Council member Hans Riemer said Pepco Holdings paid more than $1 billion in dividends to shareholders from 2005 through 2009. By his math, the utility spent about $271 million on transmission and distribution maintenance.

But Pepco officials said dividend numbers cited by Riemer (D-At Large) were far too expansive because they were based on figures from Pepco's entire holding company. The dividend figure for Pepco alone for the past five years is $180 million, according to company spokesman Clay Anderson. That figure represents the dividend Pepco paid to its holding company from 2006 through 2010, Anderson said.

Next stop for the Pepco executives is Annapolis, where later Tuesday afternoon they are expected to testify before of a legislative committee.

Staff writer Michael Laris contributed to this report.

By Hamil R. Harris  | February 8, 2011; 2:38 PM ET
Categories:  Crime and Public Safety, DC, Maryland  
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Comments

THIS IS AMERICA; WE SHOULD HAVE A CHOICE AS TO WHAT WE PAY FOR..IT SHOULD NOT BE ONLY ONE COMPANY THAT WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH..LIKE THE PHONES AND CABLE WE HAVE OPTIONS!!!

ONCE THEY GET SOME COMPETITION THEY WILL GET IT TOGETHER..SAD

Posted by: shadon1 | February 8, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

time to re-regulate the utilities!

Posted by: MarilynManson | February 8, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Allowing such monstrosities as the megachurch across Rt. 214 from Six Flags is as much responsible for frequent power outages as anything. Wasn't that one of your husband's development deals, Leslie? Poor planning! Did no one think that megachurches would consume large amounts of power?

Posted by: CalmTruth | February 8, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Graham is a congenital liar!!!!! Everything he says is a LIE.

Posted by: B-rod | February 8, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of the PEPCO monopoly.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 8, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Like Mubarak, Pepco's going nowhere!

Posted by: clitteigh | February 8, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

If even a cent of dividends were piad 2006-2010 that's sick!!! We've suffered way to many power outages for THAT!! What about people on life support or who didn't have power for days at a time during power outages during those years? And could justify paying a dividend? This 5 year plan, if started in 2006 would be place. However, I guess rate hikes and dividends are more important than power and customer safety!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: tym2jett2000 | February 8, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

If even a cent of dividends were piad 2006-2010 that's sick!!! We've suffered way to many power outages for THAT!! What about people on life support or who didn't have power for days at a time during power outages during those years? And could justify paying a dividend? This 5 year plan, if started in 2006 would be place. However, I guess rate hikes and dividends are more important than power and customer safety!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: tym2jett2000 | February 8, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

If even a cent of dividends were piad 2006-2010 that's sick!!! We've suffered way to many power outages for THAT!! What about people on life support or who didn't have power for days at a time during power outages during those years? And could justify paying a dividend? This 5 year plan, if started in 2006 would be place. However, I guess rate hikes and dividends are more important than power and customer safety!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: tym2jett2000 | February 8, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

If institutional investors started selling off their "Pepco Holdings" stock, I'd bet there would be a dramatic change of tune from the Pepco spokes-liars and there would be a real focus on reliability and service. Do any of the teacher pensions, fire and police pensions, universitys and other large public invesors in this area who rely on Pepco own "Pepco Holdings"? It's about time that they made their voices heard!!

Posted by: PepperDr | February 8, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

This story should be under "Crime Scene."

Posted by: igotstripes | February 8, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

1. I want to be able to choose my own provider.
2. I believe we should be able to subtract our costs, over and above our normal living expenses, from our bills. I have a household to run. When I have to spend money for hotel rooms, replace spoiled food in the fridge, gas, putting the dog in the kennel then I simply do not have the money to cover my PEPCO bill b/c it was already spent on things needed during PEPCO's inability to manage and run their business.
3. PEPCO needs a major 'time out'. I have lived in several states across this country and have NEVER experienced the inefficiency of PEPCO as well as their 3rd cousin COMCAST. Two companies with the absolute WORST customer service in the USA.

Posted by: lindaem2003 | February 8, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

1. I want to be able to choose my own provider.
2. I believe we should be able to subtract our costs, over and above our normal living expenses, from our bills. I have a household to run. When I have to spend money for hotel rooms, replace spoiled food in the fridge, gas, putting the dog in the kennel then I simply do not have the money to cover my PEPCO bill b/c it was already spent on things needed during PEPCO's inability to manage and run their business.
3. PEPCO needs a major 'time out'. I have lived in several states across this country and have NEVER experienced the inefficiency of PEPCO as well as their 3rd cousin twice removed COMCAST. Two companies with the absolute WORST customer service in the USA.

Posted by: lindaem2003 | February 8, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

1. I want to be able to choose my own provider.
2. I believe we should be able to subtract our costs, over and above our normal living expenses, from our bills. I have a household to run. When I have to spend money for hotel rooms, replace spoiled food in the fridge, gas, putting the dog in the kennel then I simply do not have the money to cover my PEPCO bill b/c it was already spent on things needed during PEPCO's inability to manage and run their business.
3. PEPCO needs a major 'time out'. I have lived in several states across this country and have NEVER experienced the inefficiency of PEPCO as well as their 3rd cousin twice removed COMCAST. Two companies with the absolute WORST customer service in the USA.

Posted by: lindaem2003 | February 8, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps someone should file a class action lawsuit against Pepco.

That might get their attention.

Posted by: SpeakEasy3 | February 8, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I saw a comment in another discussion where the writer suggested that when outages occur, the power at Pepco executives' homes be immediately turned off and not turned back on until the last residential customer in back online.

I think that's a good idea - along with picketing Pepco executives' houses.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 8, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

What arrogance on the part of PEPCO execs. Its not just a matter of not living up to customer expectations. It's a matter of being one of the worst performing utility services in the United States. Bottom quartile. If they are not going to compensate customers or freeze rates, then its time for the legislature to open up the judicial system procedures so customers can sue PEPCO for losses -- either indivdually or in class action suits.

As for the 5 year plan, my guess is that at the end of the five years, we'll see another five year plan and admissions of falling short -- all the while PEPCO continues to pay out bonuses to its execs and dividends to stockholders. ENOUGH OF THIS BS.

Posted by: Poleman | February 9, 2011 5:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm just curious as to WHY our legislators continue to REWARD PEPCO ENERGY, PEPCO HOLDINGS other subsidiary company with ONE multimillion dollar contract after the other. Then, they are more than happy to accept campaign contributions, every single one of them, before election time. This is all public information on opensecrets.org. type in pepco in "search". Type in Pepco in Baltimore Business Journal if you want to read about the contracts all recently rewarded in the last TWO WEEKS!

Posted by: CountytaxpayingCHNII | February 13, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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