The OPC CONNECTION - December, 2016

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.

Image:People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye with OPC and DC Council staff.

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

Image:People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye thanks Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen for co-hosting OPC briefing for Council staff.

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

 

 

OPC hosted a Utility Social Services Forum on November 29, attended by representatives of social service nonprofits, government agencies and Pepco. The goal of the discussion was for the participants to learn about the social and financial services provided by specific agencies and organizations throughout the District of Columbia. Through experience, OPC staff has learned that consumers with utility services issues may have other concerns, as well. Some may be confronted with problems ranging from unemployment to child care to mental health care. While OPC can help resolve complaints with utility providers, the Office's mandate does not allow for provision of any financial or social services support. During utility complaints resolution, staff may refer complainants to social service agencies for additional assistance.

The discussion was an invaluable opportunity for all participants to learn more about the services provided by OPC and other organizations and develop a way to more comprehensively and effectively address the needs of District residents. Each attendee was given the opportunity to share what resources they offer and answer any questions from other participants. OPC hopes the discussions will lead to the creation of a city wide support network that focuses on the strengths and capabilities of each participant organization. The discussion was an excellent way to learn more about the types of programs and support offered throughout the city, and was valuable in beginning a dialog among social service organizations.

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.

Image:Did I turn off the inside water bib for the outside faucet?  Oh right, I'm a penguin!
  • 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.

OPC is Eric Scott.
Pictured: OPC is Eric Scott.

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:

Formal Case No. 1127

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.

Formal Case No. 1137

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.

Formal Case No. 1119

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.

Formal Case No. 988

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.

Bill No. 21-0911

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

   

OPC became an independent agency of the District of Columbia government on January 2, 1975. Over the years, the Office has accumulated a large and diverse collection of historic posters, artwork, and memorabilia. Now, OPC would like to give our readers the opportunity to admire the collection as much as OPC staff has for years
 
This month: OPC's Exhibit (2A)-1 for Formal Case 945 a.k.a the OPC Divestiture ScoreCard

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!