A Note from Your People's Counsel
You may have heard that Pepco is requesting a $76.8 million rate increase--the electric utility's largest in at least 30 years. You might also know, but it's worth repeating, that the Office of the People's Counsel is on the record as opposing the rate hike because of the possible harm to District consumers. In March, OPC attorneys mounted a vigorous defense for ratepayers, arguing that if rates increase at all, it should be by no more than $25 million. To lay out the facts, OPC participated in an eight-day evidentiary hearing for Formal Case No. 1139 at the DC Public Service Commission. In the wake of those proceedings, OPC is drafting its brief in the rate case to submit to the PSC. The Commission's decision is expected by July 2017.
The evidentiary hearings may be over, however, there is still time for the public to weigh-in on the rate proposal. The PSC will hold its last community hearing on April 12th at 6 pm at its offices at 1325 G Street NW. If you are unable to attend the community hearing, you can submit written testimony to the Commission until April 25th.
Your input is valuable because it will give the Commission first-hand information about the negative impacts unfair, unreasonable and unsubstantiated rate increases will have on District residents.
April 12th also is important because that's the day OPC will release a "Value of Solar Study" at a press conference. It's the first study of its kind for the District of Columbia and will provide key information about the viability of solar as an energy option for all District communities. We'll post the study on our new web site at www.opc-dc.gov on that day for you to check out.
Have you checked out the new and improved opc-dc.gov?
OPC invites you to take a look at our new website that recently went online. It's the first major redesign in more than four years. Like the previous site, the new portal highlights the critical work of the OPC divisions that have the most contact with the public: the Consumers Services and Litigation Services Divisions. However, the new website is designed to be more user-friendly, simpler, and eye-catching. You can explore OPC's Value of Solar, energy efficiency initiatives; follow @DCOPC tweets; and watch "," a video that explains how OPC advocates, educates and protects consumers.
"OPC in Your Neighborhood" is a community outreach initiative started in response to the increasing number of Third Party Supplier complaints and utility service disruptions in Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. Since its start in July 2016, OPC has expanded the outreach program to other wards. During OPC in Your Neighborhood appearances, members of OPC's Consumer Services Division educate District consumers on OPC's role as utility consumer advocate, distribute utility resource information, and start the advocacy process with consumers who have billing issues. To date, OPC in Your Neighborhood has been conducted at 14 libraries, farmer's markets and grocery stores reaching approximately 1,200 DC residents.
We're excited that OPC in Your Neighborhood will resume this spring, continuing OPC's mission to "advocate, educate and protect" DC consumers.
The Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative
OPC works closely with social service agencies and other partners.
E/BFSC is one of five neighborhood-based Collaboratives in the District of Columbia, which make up the city-wide Healthy Families, Thriving Communities Collaborative network. E/BFSC has been in existence since 1996 when a partnership consisting of residents and neighborhood-based organizations received a planning grant from the DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). The planning grant facilitated the development of a community-based collaborative effort to design and implement a neighborhood-based family support system. After a year of planning, E/BFSC opened its first Family Support Center in Brookland Manor in 1997 and began formally serving families. In 2011, E/BFSC expanded its geographic target area and now provides services to all communities in Ward 5 and Ward 6.
Working together, E/BFSC and OPC are able to improve the quality of life of DC consumers.
Learn more at ebfsc.org
In our continuing profiles of OPC employees who work daily to serve District utility consumers, we introduce CharQuia Barringtine.
If you have an iPhone, you might have used "FaceTime" to have a visual conversation. However, when we say CharQuia Barringtine is an expert in "face time," it means a couple things.
First, when CharQuia came to OPC over a year ago, she was the first face visitors to OPC's reception desk would see. Now in OPC's Consumers Services Division, CharQuia is still greeting people who need utility assistance face-to-face (with a friendly smile) and over the phone (with a friendly voice).
The native Washingtonian's responsibilities also include: preparing handouts for outreach programs, community meetings and utility briefings. Prior to coming to OPC, Barringtine held positions with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, where she also "faced" the public and delivered customer service.
Previously, CharQuia was not aware of how OPC finds solutions for consumers facing problems with their utilities. The opportunity to serve District residents is one of the things she now finds rewarding.
As for the second reference to "face time," CharQuia is a licensed esthetician or skin care specialist." After graduating from Calvin Coolidge Sr. High School, the Ward 4 resident attended the Aveda Institute of Washington, DC. There, she learned the tricks of the trade of performing facials, massage therapy and other beauty treatments.
When CharQuia is not "facing" DC utility consumers, she is making people look and feel rejuvenated not only with skin care therapy, but also through the wire jewelry and accessories she makes for fun.
WGL was authorized by the PSC to modernize its city-wide natural gas infrastructure. The construction involves replacing couplings on main gas lines and underground pipelines. OPC understands the need for the construction projects to improve the safety and efficiency of WGL's natural gas delivery system.
However, during the past several months, OPC has received an increasing number of calls from residents complaining about poor workmanship, property damage, and lack of notice about WGL's construction projects. Additionally, residents in historic districts have raised concerns that WGL is not complying with rules governing construction in those neighborhoods.
Residents of Brown's Court on Capitol Hill and Hugh's Mews in Foggy Bottom have been particularly concerned about WGL's projects, which include moving meters and gas line cutoff valves from inside to outside of homes. Construction has caused some property damage and diminished aesthetics of historic district homes. According to company representatives, WGL only adheres to Georgetown Historic District regulations. The Capitol Hill Restoration Society has now weighed in on the construction issues, requesting WGL follow historic district guidelines, including use of decorative bollards to protect meters.
OPC staff has met with residents affected by WGL's projects, as well as WGL officials. The Office also met with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and contacted the District Department of Transportation and the Historic Preservation Office, who are now taking action. In late December, the Office filed a petition requesting the PSC order WGL to immediately suspend work while the PSC conducts an investigation of the allegations to prevent unsafe installation practices and further degradation of District neighborhoods.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1119 (Exelon-PHI Merger)
OPC put forward for consideration several sets of data requests from Pepco on March 17 and March 19, 2017.
Formal Case No. 1027 & 1115
On March 13, 2017, Washington Gas Light Company, the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, and OPC jointly filed a Report on Technical Conference with the Commission on the discussions among the three parties that took place on January 6, 2017 and February 14, 2017.
Formal Case. No. RM27-2017 (Telecommunications Service Outage Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
On March 21, OPC filed Initial Comments in support of the Commission's proposed rules regarding the reporting of telecommunications service outages.
Formal Case No. RM46-2015-01 & 1130 (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Competitive Energy Supplier Bonding and Licensure Requirements)
The Office submitted Initial Comments on March 20. With the exception of one revision proposed by OPC, the Office's comment supported the Commission's proposed rules.
Formal Case OPC2017-01 (OPC's Independent Investigation of Proposed AltaGas-WGL Merger)
OPC filed a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses from Washington Gas on March 2.
Formal Case No. 766/ACR2017 (Productivity Improvement Working Group (PIWG)
On March 29, representatives from Commission staff, Pepco, and OPC held a PIWG meeting. Filing in this matter will be done in April.
Formal Case No. 712/RM01-2017-01 (OPC Petition Requesting Rulemaking Proceeding Regarding Filing Requirements)
The Office filed Initial Comments with the Commission on March 31, wherein OPC asked the Commission to make more efficient use of the PSC's electronic-filing capabilities.
The OPC Connection has been highlighting our collection of historic posters, artwork and memorabilia. This month, we showcase some of the amazing artwork on display in our office on loan from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Enjoy!
And the winners are...these third graders who won night lights for answering questions about saving energy at an Energy Efficiency Workshop by OPC's Denise Blackson at the FBR Branch Boys & Girls Clubs at THEARCH in Ward 8.
OPC's legal team at the Public Service Commission, ready to fight for affordable rates and make the case against Pepco's $77 million rate increase request. Seated from left: Deputy People's Counsel Karen Sistrunk, People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, Assistant People's Counsel Arick Sears; Standing: Litigation Director Laurence Daniels, Trial Supervisor Travis Smith, Paralegal Tamika Dodson.
OPC is In Your Neighborhood, here informing the Benning Ridge Civic Association in Ward 7 about the latest utility and energy news.