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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 02/16/2010

Pepco, bury those lines

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Bill Askinazi
Germantown

During the past 16 years that my family and I have lived in Montgomery County, we have endured ice storms, rainstorms, lightning strikes and blizzards. Over that span, we, along with tens of thousands of our neighbors, have inevitably suffered through power outages. The unpredictability of weather and its consequences is, well, predictable. This cycle of downed trees falling on power lines that result in outages is also painfully foreseeable to everyone except, apparently, Pepco.

This last blast of winter’s rage has again triggered a cycle of weighted trees and downed lines, resulting in massive outages. This time it was coupled with falling temperature, resulting in extremely dangerous conditions. My elderly neighbors slept through indoor temperatures hovering just above freezing. Residents have succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning and indoor fires. Young families have bundled babies out of their residential ice boxes to hotels.

Pepco’s failing infrastructure is as dangerous to the public as are any crumbling bridges and bursting water mains. The utility cannot afford to ignore this life-threatening issue any longer. Its management must immediately step up and announce that it is embarking on a policy to bury the lines and enhance power distribution and transmission. Not only will the aesthetics of our communities improve, but we will be spared the anguish and turmoil associated with leaving home to find warmth.

We recognize that Pepco cannot control the weather. It can, however, begin to responsibly adapt its business practices to mitigate the known dangers that the next storm will bring.

The writer was assistant secretary of business and economic development for Maryland from 2002 to 2006.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | February 16, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, Montgomery County, weather  
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Comments

We live in Southern Maryland and our power company is SMECO (a co-op). We started out in So. MD when we lived in a starter house with exposed power lines for 5 yrs..we had only 1 30 min bump in power..thats it. We moved from our starter home and stayed in So. MD to a home with buried utilities-we stayed warm and cozy-I think again..1 power bump for 15 min.
Prior to moving to So. MD, we lived in Montgomery County-hated every minute of it. Hated the exhuberant taxes-hated PEPCO-hated all of it. Everyone was a fat cat, especially PEPCO. The people having to shell out money all of the time for their overinflated and constantly rising power bills got the short end and STILL are. How much in the last 6 yrs has your power bills gone up? All of this time and PEPCO still hasnt moved forward bringing communities in to the 21st century? Seems to me the political fat cats have been dancing around this like Bush did with the rising gas prices. They allow gouging to occur until the people say ENOUGH..when will you say ENOUGH?

Posted by: IGotLotsToSay | February 16, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

It's way easier to simply keep the trees away from public utilities.

Posted by: Wallenstein | February 16, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Of course the residents wouldn't mind paying hugely higher rates or having their streets, sidewalks and lawns destroyed in the process.

Bill Askinazi writes his demand as if it could be done with a wave of the wand.

At the end of the little rant it is revealed that he WAS "assistant secretary of business and economic development for Maryland from 2002 to 2006."

Does the good Mr. Askinazi have an estimate on the cost and timeline of such a project?

Posted by: spamsux1 | February 16, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that if people were willing to pay the huge cost of burying electric lines, and put up with the inconvenience of the construction, PEPCO will be willing to do it. It's the first part of the equation that's the problem.

And BTW, if people would let PEPCO trim the trees properly, so that their branches aren't anywhere near power lines, outages would be greatly reduced.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 16, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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