A Note from Your People's Counsel
With the 2016 elections in the history books, all roads now lead to beginning and continuing OPC partnerships with District officials who share the commitment to advocate, educate and protect DC utility consumers.
I look forward to collaborating with newly elected and returning Councilmembers and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners on programs and initiatives that benefit District residents in all eight wards.
I was pleased with the substantive discussions OPC staff and I had with Council staff at a recent briefing we hosted with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Local Business Development and Utilities. OPC brought them up-to-date on the numerous projects the agency is overseeing, including the OPC Value of Solar Study, the major rate cases before the Public Service Commission, Pepco/Exelon merger compliance, senior and low income consumer outreach, and ward-specific issues
OPC is addressing.
We particularly appreciate the relationships with Council constituent services staff, as well as the ANCs, because they help us link with consumers most in need. As the current legislative period winds down, I am hopeful about leading even greater collaboration with the District's elected officials
New eligibility rules for the Lifeline Program, which provides a discount on telecommunications services, including telephone service for low-income consumers, took effect on December 2, 2016. The rules are a result of action at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In addition, eligible consumers can now use the Lifeline discount on broadband internet service over DSL, cable, or fiber-optic. The new rules are designed to help close the digital divide, increase program efficiency and decrease fraud.
Here's what the changes mean:
- You will no longer be able to qualify for the Lifeline discount with proof of participation in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or National School Lunch Program.
- You can qualify for the Lifeline discount by proving your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty line or with proof of participation in one of the following programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8), or Veterans or Survivors Pension Benefit programs.
- You can continue to receive Lifeline for landline or wireless voice telephone service. However, the voice-only Lifeline discount will be phased out before ending on December 1, 2021.
- Broadband speeds must meet FCC standards.
To learn more about the Lifeline Program, call OPC or click here. Apply for the discount by calling DC Lifeline at 800.253.0846.
People like to say that winter is coming. Well, they were right because winter is here. Prepare now for low temperatures and high heating bills. Here are several ways to lower your heating costs.
- First, get an Energy Audit through the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) to determine corrective energy efficiency savings measures. Call 311 to be connected to the DCSEU.
- Have a licensed contractor or other qualified technician check your heating system, hot water heater, water pipes and ducts.
- Use insulation kits to wrap the water heater and hot water pipe leading from the tank.
- Caulk around windows and use weather stripping around doors.
- If you have storm windows, check for proper fit of glass and frames. Plastic storm window kits are available at hardware stores.
- Lower your thermostat setting when you are away from home or asleep.
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat that will adjust temperatures automatically.
- If you have radiators, release trapped air through bleeder valves to improve their efficiency.
- Clean and remove any material from radiators that will reduce efficiency.
- Fix dripping faucets.
- When possible, insulate your home's sidewalls and attic.
- Consider installing heavy or insulated curtains or drapes at windows.
- Turn off the inside water bib, leaving the outside faucet open to allow water drainage and minimize possibility of those pipes freezing.
The OPC Connection is continuing a series of profiles of OPC employees who work daily to serve District utility consumers.
"Calling all Kmart shoppers!" The familiar calling card for the department store is actually not something you would hear Eric shout. However, Eric says he could tell you everything you would want to know about Kmart's "Jaclyn Smith Collection." That's because Eric's first position after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was assistant fashion manager for the retail chain. Later, the economics major would move from the clothing racks through North Carolina Central School of Law to the District of Columbia government.
Eric has been OPC's Chief Operating Officer for two years. He is a key member of the agency's senior management team, overseeing operations and procedures, including budget, contracting and procurement and human resources matters. With the District government for more than 10 years, Scott has served as Deputy Director of Operations with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and Chief of Staff and Associate Director for the Department of Employment Services (DOES). He sees government service as rewarding because of the positive impact it can have on people's lives. For example, he is proud to have worked on the initiatives that enabled District residents to get jobs in the construction of the Marriott Marquis Hotel and the CityCenterDC development. Now, Eric is focused on ensuring OPC's business models are strategic so that utility consumers continue to benefit from OPC's advocacy.
In his spare time, Eric is reading spy novels or watching Alfred Hitchcock thrillers and black and white movies starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Comments on Washington Gas Light Company's RES Implementation Plan: recommendations to improve the WGL education program designed to inform consumers about the changes to Residential Essential Service.
Initial Brief in the Washington Gas Light Rate Case: explains in detail why WGL's request to increase rates by $19 million should be rejected.
Comments on Pepco's Service Integration Plan: offers analysis of how the company will comply with commitments it made as conditions of the Pepco/Exelon merger.
Comments on the Commission's Inquiry into the expansion of the DC Universal Service Fund: reviews the impact of the recent Federal Communications Commission decision to include broadband and other services under the USF.
Testimony on Electric Company Infrastructure Improvement Financing Amendment Act of 2016: People's Counsel testified in opposition of proposed bill, which, if passed, would have unintended negative consequences on District ratepayers such as higher future base rates and increased DC PLUG costs
What we love about it: Baseball and being a zealous advocate for District ratepayers go hand in hand. We know that we never talk about baseball without bringing up utility rates! (Just us?) Anyway, OPC attends a LOT of hearings. Hundreds, actually, and sometimes you can't just go in to an important hearing unarmed. That's when you dig deep into the clipart folder for inspiration.
What we should be embarrassed by, but aren't: Only that we didn't think to highlight this in time for the World Series. Oh, well. Go Nats in 2017!
OPC's Nicole Sitaraman speaks about electric vehicles' impact on utility rates at a meeting of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates with representatives of Plug In America and Oregon Citizens Utility Board.
Youth at the FBR Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Ward 8 are all "back-packed" and ready to learn how to save energy with OPC's Denise Blackson.
OPC's Pamela Nelson teaching teens at the FBR Boys & Girls Clubs how to make "draft logs." They will be donated to senior citizens to help keep the cold out.
DC Teen is amazed at how his newly created "draft log" keeps out cold air.