The OPC CONNECTION - July 2017

 

A Note from Your People's Counsel

In our mission to advocate for DC utility consumers, OPC is pleased to partner with members of the Council of the District of Columbia on efforts to protect vulnerable communities. For example, OPC provided technical assistance to Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd in drafting language for the Community Residential Facilities Third-Party Notice of Utility Disconnection Requirement Act. Council member Todd introduced the legislation on June 27, 2017. The bill seeks to prevent loss of utility services in potentially life-threatening situations.

If approved by the Council, the bill would require any company providing utility services in the District to give 30-days’ notice to agencies that manage community residential facilities prior to disconnecting services. The bill also would require community residential facilities to ensure the utility companies list the managing agency as a third-party contact. Therefore, when named as a third-party contact, a managing agency would receive service notices before any shut-offs occur, and may be able to intervene to prevent disconnections.

The legislation is important because it provides an extra layer of protection for some of the District’s most vulnerable residents who may need around –the– clock care and uninterrupted power. They include seniors and others living in approximately 150 assisted living facilities, community residence facilities and nursing homes that receive funding both from private companies and Medicaid. These residents may not be in a legal position to inquire about the status of a facility’s utility bill or negotiate a payment agreement if it is indeed delinquent. The bill is co-sponsored by At-Large Council member Anita Bonds. AARP also assisted in drafting the legislation.

OPC and District residents lost a friend and fierce advocate for the community with the passing of Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Theresa Howe Jones onJuly 10, 2017.

Last October, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye recognized Commissioner Jones as the 2016 OPC Consumer Advocate of the Year for her grassroots work in support of utility consumers. Ms. Jones showed her concern for ratepayers by testifying before the Public Service Commission and the DC Council on numerous occasions.Over 40 years of public service, she worked tirelessly for under served and disenfranchised communities east of the Anacostia River.

OPC shares with her family, Ward 8 and many across the District the sadness over the passing of Commissioner Theresa Howe Jones.

OPC honored Commissioner Jones in October 2016

OPCis advocating for consumers in the following cases:

FormalCase No. 1139 – Pepco Application to Increase Rates.

On May2, 2017 OPC appeared before the DC Court of Appeals, to appeal the PSC’sdecision to approve the merger of Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings, Inc.The Court is expected to render a decision this summer.

Formal Case Nos. 1115, 1027, GT97-3, GT06-1

s. On July 24, 2017, the PSC approved a $36.8 million increase in Pepco’s distribution rates. Pepco initially requested a rate hike of $85 million and then $77 million. OPC challenged both as too high and unjustified. OPC also fought for a rate freeze for residential customers.As a result, DC residents won’t pay the rate increase for two years. See OPC’s press release at opc-dc.gov.

Formal Case No. 1115 – Washington Gas Light Company’s Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipeline Replacement Plan (APRP)

Now known as PROJECT pipes, the APRP is WGL’s 40-year plan to replace aging gas pipeline and infrastructure in the District. OPC is reviewing all project lists, cost reconciliation, and project reconciliation reports. On June 9, 2017, OPC filed Comments in Response to Washington Gas’ Final Draft of Agreed upon Procedures.

Formal Case No. 1142 – The Merger of Alta Gas,Ltd, and WGL Holdings, Inc.

In April 2017, the Commission opened a proceeding to review the proposed merger of AltaGas, a Canadian utility company, and WGL, as to whether the proposed merger would be in the public interest. On June 19, OPC filed Comments in Response to the Public Notice issued on May 25, and made several data requests of WGL

Formal Case No. 1126 – The Office of the People’s Counsel’s Complaint Against Washington Gas Light Company Regarding the Unlawful Compensation of Competitive Service Providers in Violation of it’s Rate Schedule Number 5

In August 2016, the PSC ordered WGL to refund $2.4 million to District rate payers because of an improper compensation methodology that refunded vendors for the over-delivery of gas to WGL. NOVEC (one of the vendors) filed a Petition to Intervene and Request for Clarification. On June 26, 2017, OPC filed a Response to NOVEC’s Petition.

Formal Case No. GT96-3, RM472017-01 &1130

  • The Application of Washington Gas Light Company, District of Columbia Division, for the Authority to Establish a New Rate Schedule No. 1A
  • The Investigation into the Public Service Commission’s Rules Governing the Licensure and Bonding of Natural Gas Suppliers and Natural Gas Consumer Protection Standards in the District of Columbia, and
  • The Investigation into the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS)

On May 26, the PSC announced that it would adopt new rules governing the licensure and bonding of natural gas suppliers, along with uniform consumer protection standards. On June 27, OPC filed its Motion for Initial Comments to the Notice of Proposed Rule making.

Formal Case No. PEPACR2017-01

The Pepco Annual Consolidated Report provides statistics and planning documents related to the Company’s System Plan, Comprehensive Plan, Productivity Improvement Plan, and Manhole Event Report. On June 29, 2017, OPC filed Comments on Pepco’s 2017 Annual Consolidated Report, Part 2.

There’s still time for consumers to let their voices be heard on the District of Columbia Power Line Under grounding Initiative (DC PLUG). It’s a historic public private partnership between the District and Pepco intended to improve the District’s electric system resiliency in response to severe weather events

The DC Public Service Commission is holding community hearings to take public comment. The final community hearing will take place this evening, Tuesday,July 25, at 6:30 PM at Temple Sinai, 3100 Military Road NW in Ward 4. Hearings also were held on Friday, July 21, in Ward 8 and on Monday, July 24, in Ward 5.Written comments can be submitted to the Commission until September 13, 2017.and prevent power outages.

Through DC PLUG, Pepco and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will place underground approximately 30 of Pepco’s poorest performing overhead power lines in Wards 3,4, 5, 7, and 8 over the next 6 years (with the possibility of anextension). Pepco will be responsible for all construction involving electrical engineering, and DDOT will be responsible for civil engineering construction. Contact OPC if you need more information about DC PLUG or go to www.opc-dc.gov.

This month’s employee spotlight is also the newest member to the OPC team. The Office of the People’s Counsel welcomes Aaron Ward to the agency as the new Manager of the Consumer Services Division./p>

Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Aaron comes to OPC with extensive experience working in politics. After receiving his Bachelor's Degree in accounting from Howard University School of Business, Aaron transitioned to campaign work including serving as a field director for the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign in 1996. He has also served as District Director for two civil rights icons, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

When not at work, Aaron enjoys traveling (he just got back from a brief European excursion to France and Spain) and watching foreign films. Aaron is also taking classes to pursue his lifelong interest in writing, whether that be screenplays, short stories, novels or TV scripts. “I love the ability to explore various creative outlets, and the great thing about writing is…there are no rules, it’s just wherever your mind takes you.”

We are excited to have Aaron on board to continue his public service on behalf of District ratepayers.

Have you had an unexpected visit or call from someone claiming to be able to lower your utility bills?

Third Party Suppliers (TPS), companies authorized to sell electricity or natural gas supply, are increasingly out knocking on doors in District neighborhoods and making telephone calls to homes. TPS marketers must identify themselves and their company and alert you that they are NOT from a local utility. Neither Pepco nor Washington Gas will ever contact you in this manner.

OPC urges all consumers to take a moment to "chill" and think before agreeing to contract with any company making an offer that may sound too good to be true. If you have questions about Third Party Suppliers, you may always contact OPC.

When not at work, Aaron enjoys traveling (he just got back from a brief European excursion to France and Spain) and watching foreign films. Aaron is also taking classes to pursue his lifelong interest in writing, whether that be screen plays, short stories, novels or TV scripts. “I love the ability to explore variouscreative outlets, and the great thing about writing is…there are no rules, it’s just wherever your mind takes you.”

The Salvation Army, in addition to its variety of social service programs,administers the WGL Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF), which can pay for energy sources to heat families' homes during the winter.While resolving consumers' complaints, OPC staff may refer consumers to the Salvation Army for energy payments assistance. When other assistance has run out or is not available, WAFF can be a safety net.

WAFF assistance is available in the metropolitan area through the Salvation Army between January 1 and May 31 each year. For more information, or to apply for assistance,District residents can contact the Salvation Army at (202) 332-5000 or visit washingtonareafuelfund.org