The OPC Connection - August 2019

 

A Note from ​​Your People's Counsel

Sandra Mattavous-Frye

Recommended Reading

What’s on your relaxing-on-the-beach reading list? It might not be as juicy as the romance novel, or the suspenseful murder mystery you just cannot put down. Nonetheless, I encourage you to check out “Meeting the Needs of Tomorrow’s Utility Consumer Today," the Office of the People’s Counsel 2018 Annual Report. The Report runs down how OPC has delivered on the promise to secure a wide range of tangible consumer benefits for District residents in all eight wards over the past fiscal year. We also cite key trends and developments that surfaced, including the expansive efforts by utilities to upgrade their aging infrastructure. The document explains how OPC’s scrutiny of such projects has saved ratepayers tens of millions of dollars.

In addition, we report on OPC’s new mandate to fight for DC Water consumers with the same level of advocacy that’s been the hallmark of our service to electric, natural gas, and local phone consumers.

Contact the Office of the People’s Counsel if you’d like hard copies of the Annual Report to share with your organization or agency (or to read at the beach ). In the meantime, view it here or by clicking on the cover below.

Were you one of the 39,000 Pepco customers who experienced the power outage the weekend of July 27? Trust that, as the advocate for Pepco ratepayers, OPC was in contact with utility officials and was monitoring the outage even after the lights came back on.

When a power outage occurs in the District, Pepco is required to notify OPC, at a minimum via voice message, within hours of the interruption and provide basic information such as the location of the outage, the approximate number of customers affected and the estimated restoration time.

Pepco also must provide OPC with a written final report. For the July event, Pepco confirmed that the service disruption was due to equipment failure at a Pepco substation near Florida Avenue NW. The outage left consumers in parts of Shaw-Howard University, Logan Circle, U Street, Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, Van Ness, and the Adams Morgan neighborhoods in the dark, according to Pepco’s report.

OPC has closely reviewed the outage report and discussed the details with Pepco. At this time, OPC attorneys are making inquiries to determine specifically how the outage happened and what Pepco will do to avoid such a large outage in the future.

Outages caused by equipment failure such as this, lasting more than 8 hours and restored within 24 hours are classified as “Non-major Service Outages.”

Outages affecting more than 10,000 customers, and it takes more than 24 hours to get the power back on are classified as “Major Service Outages.”

Whenever an outage occurs--major or not--if you are experiencing any lingering issues, or have a complaint related to your electric service, call our Consumer Services staff at (202) 727-3071 to learn how OPC Can Help!

Why is My Water Bill So High?

If you’ve been asking that question, OPC’s Water Services Division can provide some answers. High bills are caused by a variety of factors: running toilets, leaks, and now, rising rates associated with the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge or CRIAC.

The CRIAC fee, which funds the Clean Rivers Project, may be the most misunderstood monthly charge. However, OPC’s Water Services Division is here to help ratepayers understand the fine print.

Did you know…
  • The Clean Rivers Project is the result of a 2005 legal settlement resulting from a campaign by environmental groups to clean and protect the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and Rock Creek.
  • Since 2009, DC Water has charged ratepayers for the impervious surface on their land.
  • Impervious surfaces are non-green spaces such as driveways and roofs that do not absorb water into the ground, and therefore, produce polluted stormwater runoff into sewers and waterways.
  • The CRIAC fee was $1.24 per 1,000 sq. ft of impervious surface in 2009. DC Water projects the fee will rise to $29.31 per 1,000 sq. ft by fiscal year 2028.

With rising CRIAC rates placing a financial strain on some ratepayers, OPC’s Water Services Division wants you to know about conservation and discount programs that may lower the burden. The District has created a $7 million relief program to help residents and nonprofits with CRIAC fees. Call 311 or email the Department of Energy and Environment at doee.dc.gov/service/criacrelief for details.

Contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you’d like to learn about OPC’s wide-ranging services for water consumers, including resolving billing disputes.

OPC Warnings to Consumers to Beware of Utility Scams Prompts Vigilance
“Thank you for the good work you’re doing!”

That was Nancy McKeon’s response to OPC’s latest alert about phone scams. The Office has repeatedly warned consumers about scammers who raise their ugly head periodically.

On August 13, OPC shared with consumers that perpetrators are falsely posing as utility company representatives, calling from phone numbers that appear on caller ID as utility contacts, and attempting to extort money by threatening to disconnect service.

McKeon, a Ward 3 resident, who had just avoided being victimized by a scammer, contacted Laurence Jones, OPC’s Consumer Services Project Supervisor, with her concerns, stating:

“…Thank you for responding. In fact, it was your most recent scam alert that prompted me to write to you. It’s sad, but probably accurate, to conclude that there’s not much we can do to counter these scammers but to be ever vigilant. Keep up the good fight.”

OPC, indeed, will continue to fight for District consumers and do all we can to protect you from scammers.

Every summer the Office of the People’s Counsel offers rising second or third-year law students the opportunity to join its Litigation Services Division for a paid summer internship. This summer OPC had the good fortune of having Lonnie Hinton, a rising thirdyear law student at Howard University, on board as OPC’s 2019 Summer Intern. For 8 weeks, Lonnie got hands-on experience working alongside OPC attorneys. We wish Lonnie the absolute best as he moves on from this experience and completes his final year of law school.

The Solar Connection is a feature designed to "shine the light" on developments in solar power and educate consumers about this energy option.

Solar Power to the People

You may have heard the phrase “power to the people,” but you may not be aware of a company that takes those words literally: WDC Solar, Inc. Founded by Mark Davis, WDC Solar has been connecting low-income DC residents with free solar power since 2009, well before the industry was taking off in the District.

Based in Ward 8, the company has been recognized by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners for its free training program that specializes in teaching solar trade skills to residents in underserved communities. Darrell Foster, a UDC student, went through the training and now says, “I’m proud to be on a team that was trained to treat everyone’s roof as if it’s their own.”

As an authorized contractor of Solar For All, the District government program that strives to bring the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households by 2032, WDC Solar is helping Washingtonians blaze a trail toward the dream of urban sustainability.

Laura Jackson says she is benefiting from her solar system that was installed by WDC Solar trainees. “Solar energy has drastically decreased and in some cases completely eliminated my electric bill,” she says

It’s safe to say that solar power is making the District just a little cooler, literally. Find out more about WDC Solar at (202) 506-7586 or www.wdcsolar.com.

This article was contributed by WDC Solar.

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger Application of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.

On July 9, 2019, OPC filed a Response to AltaGas Merger Condition No. 5. OPC’s position remains WGL’s revised Compliance Filing still lacks specifics in several key areas. OPC contends that WGL has not presented a plan that is ready for Commission approval. The Office requests the Commission require WGL to continue to hold quarterly working group meetings and distribute quarterly compliance filings that provide tangible progress on each of the areas indicated by the Commission.

On July 29, OPC filed jointly with the DC Government Responses to AltaGas Merger Commitment No. 74 Compliance Filing. OPC and the DC Government recommend that the Commission reject the Companies' Compliance Filing as non-compliant and require the Companies to file a new proposal.

Formal Case No. 1115: Washington Gas Light's Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipeline Replacement Plan

On August 8, OPC filed Initial Comments regarding the Liberty Consulting Group’s Management Audit Report. OPC made a number of recommendations based on Liberty Consulting’s independent Final Management Audit Report. The Report examined WGL’s performance in the first phase of PROJECTpipes, including that the Commission should direct a full and complete review of the Company's capabilities to successfully carryout the program.

OPC will be out at the following events:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's Senior Resource Fair Deanwood Recreation Center
Location:1350 49th St NE
Date:Wednesday, September 4
Time:10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Adams Morgan Day
Location:18th Street NW from Kalorama Road NW to Columbia Road NW
Date:Sunday, September 8
Time:12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Gethsemane Baptist Church Annual Summer Cookout
Location:5119 4th Street NW
Date:Saturday, September 14
Time:12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Paramount Baptist Church 24th Annual Harvest Health Fair
Location:3924 4th Street SE
Date:Saturday, September 21
Time:10:00 am - 2:00 pm