A Note from Your People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye
This is Not the Time
This past week at a Public Service Commission evidentiary hearing, OPC attorneys appeared on behalf of Pepco ratepayers to continue to make the case that the Commission should reject the utility’s application for an excessive rate increase and deny Pepco’s request to implement a multiyear rate plan. Pepco filed its initial application in May 2019 and over the past 18 months has put three proposals up for consideration, two of which seek a game-changing shift in the way rate increases are determined. These proceedings are now overshadowed by a pandemic that has resulted in family hardships, high unemployment, and business losses. It is under this state of affairs that OPC maintains this is not the time to adopt a new ratemaking plan that will impose enormous rate increases on consumers who are already suffering
The Commission must determine if Pepco’s proposals will protect consumers and the public interest. Hopefully, the PSC will carefully review the record and seriously consider the strong opinions of an overwhelming majority of community hearing witnesses who expressed concerns that consumers will be harmed if Pepco gets its way.
Learn more about OPC’s position by reading my opening statement from this week’s hearing.
The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) on October 8th hosted a meet and greet to introduce its members to Sarah Kogel-Smucker, the new OPC Environmental and Climate Attorney. In July, she became the first staffer in OPC’s new Climate Action Division.
Sarah and the new division will guide OPC efforts to build on its long history of environmental advocacy and advance the District’s clean energy and climate action goals. The Washington Gas Light Company Climate Business Plan, microgrid development, and the greenhouse gas metrics the Public Service Commission needs to evaluate utility proposals were among the topics discussed.
DCEN is a coalition of environmental advocates and organizations "working toward a vision of rebuilding Washington, DC's neighborhoods and communities for long-term economic and environmental sustainability — accomplishing this by protecting, restoring, and enhancing, the Capital City’s urban environment." OPC welcomes the opportunity to partner with DCEN to address climate change and help preserve the environment and improve the quality of life of DC residents and future generations.
OPC Community Outreach Specialist Denise Blackson (pictured above) participated in "Energy Efficiency Day 2020." The October 7th consumer webinar was a joint effort with the Department of Energy and Environment, the Public Service Commission, the DC Sustainable Energy Utility and OPC. You can view the webinar on this.
Denise provided energy efficiency tips that consumers can use in their homes to save money on utility bills over the winter heating season. She also discussed the value of having an energy audit performed.
OPC also will participate in DOEE's Weatherization Day on this Friday, October 30, from 1:00-2:00 pm. Agencies will highlight information about the Weatherization Assistance Program, and other resources for consumers. Register here
Learn more by following #Here2HelpDC on social media. Also, check out this article about the joint agency campaign.
OPC's "Take Command of Your Utility Rights" brochure is the winner of two Gold MarCom Awards. MarCom is one of the largest and most-respected creative competitions in the world
With 6,000 entries submitted worldwide, these awards recognize excellence in creativity, marketing and communications. The brochure opens into a colorful poster and tells DC consumers what to do and who to call if they have a problem with any utility. Look inside here. The publication, also in Spanish, was produced and designed with LINK Strategic Partners. which has worked with OPC on several consumer education projects. We appreciate their partnership.
Solar Fun Fact: Soaring Under the Sun
Planes, trains, and automobiles, and even space stations, have been powered by solar energy. But did you know an airplane has flown around the world while running entirely on solar power?
In early 2016, a Swiss pilot and professional explorer departed from Abu Dhabi in a famous aircraft known as "Solar Impulse II." He made a much-anticipated return in July, all with his solar load. The global flight made a statement around the world about the boundless potential of solar energy. (Source: American Solar Energy Society)
Help in the Aftermath of the Storm
OPC reminds consumers that DC Water in partnership with the District government is providing $1.5 million in financial assistance and prevention resources to Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park community residents impacted by September’s heavy rainfall.
DC Water, homeowners insurance programs, and nonprofits may be able to assist eligible residents impacted who live outside the two designated areas.
Following are a few highlights:
Dewatering and Clean-up Assistance
Letters detailing the program and application forms have been sent to all eligible property owners. Several residents have applied and received clean-up assistance for dewatering, cleaning and sanitizing. The program does not provide for property loss.
Backwater Valve Rebate Program
DC Water is expanding its backwater valve rebate program in the two identified communities. Eligible residents will be reimbursed up to $6,000 for the purchase and installation of a backwater valve. DC Water advises that residents refrain from installing backwater valves until they have received an eligibility notice. Details are available at
DC Water Claims
Residents who believe an injury, vehicle or personal property damage was the result of an accident or work performed by DC Water may file a claim at www.dcwater.com/claims or by calling (202) 787-2050 for assistance filing.
DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
GD-2020-02-M: Pilot Projects Governance Board Docket
On September 18, OPC provided the PowerPath DC Pilot Projects Governance Board September Minutes; and Monthly Report, detailing the actions of the Board in the last month. The Pilot Projects Governance Board is the entity partially formed by the Commission to help control the overall direction, implementation, and management of the PowerPath DC Pilot Project process. The Board shall implement the process as directed in this order and propose pilots to the Commission to receive project funding and to be tried in the District.
Formal Case 1157: The Investigation into WGL Compliance with the Recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board
On September 21, OPC filed a Response in Opposition to WGL Application for Reconsideration for Order No. 20608. On October 13, OPC filed a Motion for Leave to Reply and Response to WGL. OPC recommends that the Commission reject WGL’s application to the extent it seeks to relieve the company of the OQ compliance and reporting obligations imposed by Commission Order No. 20608.
Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger Application of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.
On September 25, OPC filed Reply Comments to AltaGas’s Climate Business Plan which is part of Merger Term No. 6 & 79. In the comments, the Office reiterates its recommendation that the Commission open a new comprehensive investigation into heating/home fuel sector transformation in the District and the impact of the District’s environmental policies on Washington Gas Light’s ratepayers and regulated business activities.
Formal Case No. 1154: WGL's Application for Approval of PROJECTpipes 2 Plan
On September 29, OPC filed a Joint Movants’ Non-Unanimous Motion for Enlargement of Briefing Schedule and Close of Evidentiary Record. OPC and the Joint Movants requested the Commission enlarge the current deadline for submitting briefs and closing the evidentiary record (i.e., October 5, 2020) until a date no later than 15 days following the Commission’s issuance of an Order ruling on the various requests currently pending before it regarding the admission of additional record evidence into this proceeding.
On September 30, OPC filed a Letter to Clarify Statements Included in the Motion filed the previous day. The letter corrected the requested date to enlarge the deadline and clarified that one of the parties did not oppose the motion.
Formal Case No 1164: An Inquiry into the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on District Utilities and Consumers
On October 2, OPC filed a Motion with the PSC to take Judicial Notice of Maryland Order 89636 and take Immediate Steps to Develop Relief Measures to Assist Consumers in Anticipation of the Termination of the Public Health Emergency. OPC requests the Commission move forward immediately to develop solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on District ratepayers before the expiration of the public health emergency on December 31, 2020.
Formal Case No. 1130: The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability
On October 14, OPC filed Initial Comments in Response to Pepco’s Green Button Feasibility Report. OPC’s comments address: (1) the utility’s role in the District reaching its emissions goals, (2) whether the Commission should order Pepco to optimize the functionalities of AMI data already paid by District ratepayers before implementing another costly data collection tool, and (3) whether the budget presented by Pepco is an accurate cost for a Connect My Data product in the District.
During the COVID-19 crisis, OPC welcomes the opportunity to speak at your Advisory Neighborhood Commission, civic association or community group meeting. We can give updates on utility issues and tell how we are continuing to serve during the pandemic via telework. Call (202) 727-3071 if your group would like our staff to "zoom in."
Journalist Roland Martin interviews People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye about the utility shutoff crisis across the country on his national digital news show. Fast forward about 1:24 to see the interview on this link.
Seen Around Town!
OPC launches new awareness campaign to remind consumers that OPC is still resolving utility consumer problems during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Go to https://bit.ly/3dXxkmO or call (202) 727-3071 for assistance.
People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye was a panelist for the 2020 Financial Research Institute's Public Utility Symposium. Consumer advocates and regulators discussed: “The Forces Driving Public Utility Regulatory Policy Redesign and Innovation,” covering four driving forces: physical, market, technological and legal issues and trends.