A Note from Your People's Counsel
District students are back in school as families have wrapped up vacations and trips to see grandma. OPC was in the classroom over the summer and was happy to be joined by some enthusiastic youngsters across the city.
I closed out a series of workshops OPC conducted at summer camps at DC Department of Parks and Recreation centers with a visit to the Upshur Recreation Center in Ward 4. OPC initiated the program with DPR to give District youth lessons on how to save energy and, in turn, help their families save money on utility bills.
Our consumer outreach specialists taught workshops in July and August at 13 recreation centers with a total of about 200 young people attending.Educating DC residents of all ages on energy and utility matters is part of OPC's mission. We thank DPR Director Keith Anderson and all of the center staff who helped us carry out this mission. We believe it’s never too early to start teaching young consumers about the importance of energy efficiency and how practicing it can benefit their households, the city and society as a whole.
All summer-long, OPC was empowering residents by informing them about their utility service at numerous city-wide events. Including National Night Out, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's job fair and the DC Housing Expo.
Legal staff also continued advocating on behalf of consumers before the Public Service Commission in the proposed Washington Gas/AltaGas merger and the DC Power Line Undergrounding (DC PLUG) initiative.This month, we also added to our staff of attorneys, welcoming Adrienne Mouton- Henderson and Frederick "Erik" Heinle III. Here is a peek into their backgrounds:
Adrienne Mouton-Henderson was born and raised in a Creole French-speaking family in Lafayette, Louisiana.She is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southern University Law Center; and has worked with the Louisiana Public Service Commission.Adrienne says she is a consummate public servant, and OPC is a perfect fit for continuing her drive to serve and make a difference.Adrienne visited the District on numerous occasions before settling here with her husband and three children a few months ago. The new Washingtonians enjoy participating in 5K races as a family.
A native of Pittsburgh, Frederick “Erik” Heinle III has lived in the Washington area for several years. He is a graduate of Colgate University and the University of Virginia; and his background includes practicing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.Erik says one of his goals at OPC is to ensure underserved DC communities have access to renewable energy resources. Recently, the “energy geek” was in his element on an exciting excursion to Iceland, which is almost entirely powered by renewable energy.And speaking of energy— he and his wife exert a lot of it keeping up with their 6-year-old daughter.
OPC is Your Utility Lawyer, and Adrienne and Erik are enthusiastically joining their new colleagues in putting that statement into practice.
OPC welcomes new Assistant People's Counsels Frederick "Erik" Heinle and Adrienne Mouton-Henderson.
The last total solar eclipse to hit the United States occurred in the seventies, and a lot has changed in that time. Instead of plaid leisure suits and pet rocks, you are more likely to find viewers in yoga pants holding smart phones.
Solar power has also changed drastically since the last major eclipse. Modern utility grids use a lot of solar energy, and you may have been worried about how the eclipse would affect your electricity service. Luckily, utilities have been planning for this event for a long time and were prepared. Most consumers didn't notice any interruption in service. That's because electricity is provided from multiple power sources besides solar generators.At night and on cloudy days utilities can draw from other sources to ensure that consumers never experience power loss.
Tweet your best eclipse viewing photos to @DCOPC!
OPC Staff Views the Solar Eclipse
The DC Public Service Commission (PSC) held four community hearings in July to receive public comment on the District of Columbia Power Line Undergrounding Initiative (DC PLUG).
DC PLUG is a historic public-private partnership between the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Pepco. The District launched the initiative to improve the resiliency of the city’s electric system and prevent power outages during severe weather events.
Through DC PLUG, DDOT and Pepco 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.
OPC Trial Supervisor Travis L.Smith was among the speakers. He cited the need and importance of DC PLUG and assured consumers OPC would keep them updated as the construction progresses.
Representatives of Pepco and DDOT gave an update on project costs and the impact on customer bills for the first two years of construction. The average monthly electric bill is expected to increase by almost $1.20 when two separate charges are combined.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Karrye Braxton, the ANC 4A Chairperson, was among the consumers providing testimony.She encouraged DDOT, Pepco, and the PSC to include ratepayers in decision-making; and expressed concerns that residents must receive timely notification of upcoming construction, and that quality construction and repairs to public and private property are critical to the project.
Consumers who were not able to attend the hearings have until September 13, 2017 to submit written comments to the Public Service Commission.
OPC Trial Supervisor Travis Smith makes a presentation during a Public Service Commission community hearing on the DC Power Line Undergrounding Initiative (DC PLUG)
As part of OPC’s mission to empower all utility consumers in the District of Columbia, outreach staff staged a town hall meeting with Chinese-speaking residents at the TERRIFIC, Inc.Asian & Pacific Island Senior Center on August 14, 2017. Consumer Outreach Specialist Silvia Garrick and Assistant People’s Counsel Kenneth Mallory led a dialogue with the 61 attendees. Garrick and Mallory delivered valuable information about the hot utility topics and responded to questions on variety of energy issues. Topics included how eligible consumers could benefit from the Lifeline Program, which provides discounts on local telephone service.
The community meeting was part of OPC’s language access program to ensure that all District residents have equal access to agency services regardless of their language, background or culture. Our efforts have received praise from Mayor Muriel Bowser, as OPC has received a perfect score on language access evaluations by the DC Office of Human Rights for the last four fiscal years. It’s recognition that is not taken lightly among OPC staff, who work to ensure that all OPC materials are translated to accommodate any non-English speaking District residents that might walk through the agency’s doors in search of help with their utilities.
During the last two months, OPC has received an increasing number of questions and complaints about WGL services, including high deposit amounts, service disconnection notices, inconsistent bill mailings, and effects of construction projects on neighborhoods. OPC is working to learn more about WGL’s policy changes and infrastructure projects, and will provide consumers with updates as staff gets more information.Please review your WGL bill to make sure your account balance is accurate before the winter heating season arrives.
Also, check out our brochure on understanding your gas bill online by clicking here.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1142 – In the Matter of the Merger of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.
In April 2017, the Commission opened a proceeding to review the proposed merger of AltaGas, Ltd.(a Canadian utility company) and WGL Holdings, Inc., as to whether the proposed merger would be in the public interest. On July 14, OPC filed Motion for Leave to Submit “Limited SurReply Comments” or an additional reply to the comments.PSC community hearings on the merger are scheduled for November 2017.
Formal Case No. 1130 – In the Matter of the Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS)
In June 2017, The Commission initiated a formal comment period on OPC’s Distributed Solar in the District of Columbia Report (Value of Solar Study). On July 24, OPC filed Reply Comments to Pepco’s Comments on the study.
GT97-3, GT06-1, FC#1027 & FC#1115 (PROJECTpipes)
PROJECTpipes is the first five-year increment of a 40-year program to replace Washington Gas’s (WGL) aging pipeline infrastructure, with the first phase scheduled to expire in 2019.
In approving the first phase, the Commission required WGL to file an Annual Project List describing the pipe replacement projects for which the Company will seek cost recovery each year and estimates for each project’s cost.
WGL filed an Application for Reconsideration concerning the level of cost estimates that must be included in the Annual Project List. The Company claimed that the Commission’s decision was not based on substantial record evidence. On July 31, OPC filed a Response to WGL’s Application. OPC’s Response detailed extensive record evidence spanning several cases that supports the Commission’s decision and requested the Commission affirm its decision to require cost estimates of sufficient detail so that the PROJECTpipes surcharge paid for by consumers is accurate.
Formal Case No. 712 – In the Matter of the Investigation into the Public Service Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure
The PSC is updating the regulations under which third-party energy suppliers must operate when soliciting business and selling energy in the District of Columbia. On July 31, OPC filed Initial Comments for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Containing Proposed Amendments to Chapter 3 of Title 15 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations. OPC proposed modifications to the rules that would strengthen consumer protections.
OPC thanks Legal Interns Salah Harrell and Michael Wallace for their support of our Litigation Service Division this summer. The third-year law students are returning to Howard University and George Washington University, respectively.
People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and Community Outreach Specialist Denise Blackson with children at Upshur Recreation Center in Ward 4.
OPC Consumer Outreach Specialist Erica Jones speaks with attendee at DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's job fair.
OPC Consumer Services Manager Aaron Ward with police officers at the annual National Night Out crime prevention event.