A Note from Your People's Counsel
Welcome back and Happy New Year to you, our loyal OPC Connection readers! The year 2018 is still quite young, but at the Office of the People’s Counsel we are already off to a brisk start.
I am pleased to announce that OPC has entered into a new partnership with the DC Public Schools to present energy safety and energy efficiency education to students in aftercare programs. Community Outreach Specialist Denise Blackson and fellow staff in our Consumer Services Division are expanding on previous partnerships with the FBR Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the DC Department of Parks and Recreation. Our goal is to bring energy education to our youngest consumers, so they can develop good energy habits in their homes at an early age.
Our Litigation Services Division continues to advocate for consumers in the Washington Gas-AltaGas acquisition/merger case currently before the DC Public Service Commission. We are nearing the end of the trial portion of the case. The parties have all filed their legal briefs with the Commission setting forth their positions. OPC has determined that AltaGas’ request to purchase Washington
Gas does not meet the seven public interest factors relied upon by the PSC when it determines whether a merger proposal is in the public interest. We have urged the Commission to reject the application because it fails to provide real benefits to consumers, will lead to higher rates, and otherwise fails to protect consumers from harm. Ultimately, the PSC will decide. A decision is expected in April of this year.
On January 9th, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced legislation that would authorize OPC to represent DC Water customers with service problems. OPC currently does not have this role. Chairman Mendelson’s bill was co- introduced by Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Vincent Gray, Kenyan McDuffie, Brandon Todd, Robert White, and Trayon White; and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Charles Allen, David Grosso and Brianne Nadeau. We are appreciative of the confidence the Councilmembers have in OPC’s ability to represent consumers as part of our mission.
Finally, in late December, I was pleased to learn that DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton had worked to make sure local utilities were included in a provision in the federal tax overhaul that would result in a corporate tax cut. As a result, Pepco and Washington Gas customers are in line for a rate reduction. Keep reading below for more on this issue.
There’s been a lot of talk about taxes lately and you may know about the national tax reform legislation recently signed into law. But did you know that OPC is working hard to make sure that any tax savings Pepco or Washington Gas receive are passed on to you? When electric or gas rates are set they are based on a utility’s cost of providing the service – which includes the taxes they pay. In effect, you are paying the utility’s tax bill, so when the income tax rate on corporations drops from 35 percent to 21 percent, as it did under the new law, those savings should be passed down to you.
The DC Public Service Commission has already announced that it will initiate proceedings to determine how gas and electric ratepayers in the District will benefit from the corporate tax reduction. In addition, Pepco and Washington Gas have announced plans to lower their customers’ bills early this year. OPC applauds these actions. OPC will closely scrutinize “the books” to make sure that any tax savings realized by Pepco or Washington Gas are returned directly to consumers to lower your utility bills. OPC also will work with federal regulators to insure that the tax savings realized by transmission owners lead to lower transmission costs – which are currently the fastest growing component of your wholesale energy costs.
This is your money and OPC believes you should get the full benefits of lower taxes!
Did you know that if you meet certain requirements that you may be eligible to receive assistance to make your home more energy efficient through the DC Department of Energy & Environment's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)?
To apply, visit doee.dc.gov/liheap and apply online for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). You can also call 311 to schedule an in-person appointment.
If approved for LIHEAP, complete the WAP application at the designated Energy Center based on your ward. DOEE will contact you to schedule an energy assessment of your home.
Typical assistance may include insulation, duct sealing, heating and cooling systems repairs, and energy efficient lighting or appliances.
For more information on this and other DOEE programs visit www.doee.dc.gov/energyassistance
Click on the covers if considering a TPS.
OPC is committed to advocating, educating and protecting all ratepayers in the District of Columbia. If you, or someone you know, requires assistance in another language other than English, contact OPC at 202-727-3071.
On January 8, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order rejecting the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) ill-conceived grid resilience pricing proposal. Under the proposal, electricity generators with a 90- day supply of fuel would receive a price subsidy. While the proposal was billed as a way to ensure reliability of the electric grid, the beneficiaries largely would have been coal and nuclear power generators and their breaks could have resulted in billions of dollars in increased electric bills for consumers like you. That’s why OPC and several other state consumer advocates joined together in filing comments with FERC opposing the proposal. OPC agrees with FERC’s finding that the DOE proposal “did not satisfy…clear and fundamental legal requirements” and that the evidence does not “point to any past or planned generator retirements that may be a threat to grid resilience.” As FERC Commissioner Richard Glick correctly noted, the proposal “had little, if anything, to do with resilience, and was instead aimed at subsidizing certain uncompetitive electric generation technologies.”
In its order FERC also asked the grid operators – like PJM Interconnection which serves the District – to file reports defining and assessing grid resilience in their geographic footprint discussing what enhancements, if any, need to be made. Customers like you deserve reliable electric service and OPC looks forward to a discussion with PJM, FERC, and other stakeholders that includes not just generation reliability, but also transmission (the source of the overwhelming number of outages), demand response, distributed energy, and energy storage. DC ratepayers expect and deserve solutions that are reliable, innovative, and cost-effective.
Phillip Harmon has served the Office as a Public Policy Analyst for more than 20 years. A graduate of Howard University, Phil transitioned from a career in television news at NBC4/ WRC-TV Washington, to join the OPC consumer services staff in 1992. At that time Phil conducted community outreach, managed OPC publications and developed consumer education and outreach materials.
After a break in service, he returned to OPC in 1997, working to create and launch the agency’s first website in September 1998. During his tenure, Phil has arranged countless television, radio and print media interviews on behalf of the People’s Counsel and produced numerous OPC educational videos, including OPC’s first agency video broadcast widely on DC Cable Television. An integral part of the Agency’s communication team, Phil continues to provide content and support to OPC’s educational efforts on the OPC website, over electronic media and in print.
As a member of the Operations Division, Phil works to develop educational partnerships and initiatives with other governmental and non-profit groups in support of OPC’s community engagement.
In his spare time Phil is an avid reader, model railroad buff and political junkie willing to share his observations on the news of the day.
Highlighting Feedback from Consumers
Political Activist John Capozzi Weighs in on the Gas Company Merger the PSC is Considering.
In commenting on the proposed merger of Washington Gas and AltaGas of Canada, Ward 7 resident John Capozzi says, “I see no reason for the merger. WGL is a well-run company. I’ve been a stockholder since the 80’s. This is not a situation like Pepco, which had internal and consumer relations problems. Why would WGL, a well-run company, merge with a Canadian company with no track record of service to consumers?” Capozzi further states, “The PSC is there to protect consumers. However, as proposed, the merger offers no real benefits to consumers. OPC is the best agency in the city to represent utility consumers’ interests. The agency has provided a thoughtful analysis and presentation in opposition to the merger.”
Capozzi was among the consumers who testified at community hearings the Commission held to take comment on the WGL merger application. You have until January 30th to send written comments to the Commission and let your voice be heard.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
DRRM272014-01 – 8 - The Commission's Investigation Into the Rules Governing Local Exchange Carrier Quality of Service Standards for the District of Columbia.
On December 1, OPC Filed Notice of Objections to Verizon’s Data Request No. 1.
RM-40-2017-01, 15 DCMR Chapter 40 - District of Columbia Small Generator Interconnection Rules & Formal Case No. 1050, In the Investigation of Implementation Interconnection Standards in the District
On December 1, OPC Filed Initial Comments on the Proposed Rulemaking Containing Proposed Amendments to Chapter 40 of Title 15 of DC Municipal Regulations.
FC1119 - The Joint Application of Exelon Corporation, Pepco Holdings, Inc., Potomac Electric Power Company, Exelon Energy Delivery Company, LLC and New Special Purpose Entity, LLC for Authorization and Approval of Proposed Merger Transaction
On December 4, OPC Filed a Motion for Leave to Comment and Comments on Exelon’s Ring-Fencing Report.
FC.1144 - The Application of Pepco’s Notice to Construct Two 230kV Underground Circuits from the Takoma Substation to the Rebuilt Harvard Substation and from the Rebuilt Harvard Substation to the Rebuilt Champlain Substation (Capital Grid Project)
On December 4, OPC Filed a Supplement to its November 29 Filing of Initial Comments on Pepco’s Formal Notice of Construction of the Capital Grid Project.
RM-46-2015-01-E. The Investigation into PSC Rules Governing the Licensure and Bonding of Electric Suppliers in the District of Columbia; & Case No. 1130, the Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS)
On December 4, OPC Filed Reply Comments on the Notice of the Third Proposed Rulemaking Containing the Proposed Amendment to Chapter 15 of the DC Municipal Regulations; and Reply Comments on the Notice of the Fourth Proposed Rulemaking Containing Proposed Amendments to Title 15.
On December 18, OPC Filed Initial Comments on the Proposed MEDSIS Vision Statement and Next Steps.
GT96-3, The Application of Washington Gas Light Company, District of Columbia Division, for the Authority to Establish a New Rate Schedule No. lA; & RM47-2017-01-G, The Investigation into PSC Rules Governing the Licensure and Bonding of Natural Gas Suppliers and Natural Gas Consumer Protections Standards in the District of Columbia; & FC1142 - The Merger of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.
On December 8, OPC Filed Response to Commission Order No. 19195
Since 1962, the United Planning Organization (UPO) has focused on changing lives — supporting and inspiring Washington, DC’s low-income residents on their journey to self-sufficiency and success.
UPO offers more than 30 programs and services in such areas as early childhood education, youth development, job training and placement, health and wellness, housing, and volunteering. UPO creates opportunities by helping DC residents get a job, learn a skill and find and stay in affordable housing. UPO also teaches financial literacy; offers early learning adult education and training; helps send ambitious DC high school students to college; and keeps seniors physically and mentally active. UPO unites people with opportunities.
The agency partners with OPC and many other organizations to deliver critical services to residents.
More information can be found on their website by clicking here.
Maurice Chambers attends an energy efficiency workshop by OPC's Denise Blackson at a community meeting in Ward 8, and gets an OPC Energy Savings Bucket filled with lightbulbs, a hot water gauge, thermometers, and weather- stripping. He will follow-up with Denise in three months to share his utility bill savings.
Everybody loves a parade, including People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye at the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Anacostia, even in bone-chilling weather! (Credit: Lateef Mangum)
Community Outreach Specialist Stephen Marencic (above) and Consumer Services Division Manager Aaron Ward (below) greet consumers at the Martin Luther King Jr. parade.
OPC will be out at the following events:
Ward 8 Democrats monthly meeting
2730 MLK Jr. Ave SE
Energy Efficiency Workshop
Brown Elementary School
Wheatley Elementary School
850 26th St. NE
DC Office on Aging First Annual Health Fair
1330 7th St. NW
Energy Efficiency Workshop
1720 I St. NW
Wheatley Elementary School
1229 Neal St. NE