Category: Press Releases & Advisories

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Category: Press Releases & Advisories

OPC Urges PSC to Open Investigation Into WGL’s ProjectPipes Over Gas Leak Safety, Cost and Environmental Concerns

The Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) has filed a petition with the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) requesting an investigation into Washington Gas Light’s (WGL) pipeline distribution system or infrastructure.

D.C. Launches First Ward 8 Air Quality Monitor in Bellevue

Consumer Alert: The Solar Bill is Bad for Consumers

The Office of the People's Counsel urges DC consumers to let your voice be heard. Tell the DC Council to oppose the latest Local Solar Expansion Act. OPC believes it will unjustly raise your electric bill.

OPC Wins A Victory for Pepco Customers in Two Major Appeals Court Decisions

Washington, DC - The Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia (OPC) reports the DC Court of Appeals (DCCA) has ruled in favor of OPC’s challenge of two DC Public Service Commission (PSC) decisions that OPC successfully argued were harmful to Pepco consumers.

OPC Files Testimony with the PSC Opposing Washington Gas Light’s Proposed $53 Million Rate Increase and Calls for Increased Regulatory Oversight of Infrastructure Projects

Washington, DC - The Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia (OPC) has filed testimony requesting that the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) reject the vast majority ($47.3 million) of Washington Gas Light’s (WGL) $53 million proposed rate increase and urges the PSC to closely examine the impact the rate increase will have on the most financially vulnerable DC consumers. OPC also calls on the PSC to strengthen its regulatory oversight of the gas company’s poor performance with infrastructure projects.

District Steps Toward Long Term Renewable Energy Goals With 15-Year Power Purchase Commitment

The DC Public Service Commission's approval of the first 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA), which includes renewable solar or wind power "is a historic advance in the goal to provide District electric consumers with clean energy and to meet the District 2032 100% renewable energy goal," stated People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. PDF available for Download

Earth Day 2022, Equity in Electrification for Consumers

April 22, 2022 OPC Combating Climate Change with Equity in Electrification By Sandra Mattavous-Frye People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia The Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) is pleased to observe Earth Day, April 22, 2022, by highlighting a recent study OPC commissioned: Equity Assessment of Electrification Incentives in the District of Columbia. OPC has long been at the forefront of initiatives that foster a clean and healthy environment. Now, unrelenting climate change necessitates a laser focus on how to quickly move the needle forward. District residents need easy access to ways to power and heat their homes, ride public transportation, and drive without adding to the pollution that causes climate change. Equally alarming and demanding attention is the impact of environmental injustice on the District’s most vulnerable communities. The 2022 Earth Day theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” To invest in our planet, we need to invest in climate change solutions that benefit underserved communities so that all District communities can thrive. How can we best combat climate change? How can we make sure climate solutions are just, equitable, affordable, and resilient? One potential pathway is “electrification,” switching energy and transportation systems to electricity powered by “green” energy sources to reduce climate change emissions and other air pollution, and to transition away from burning fossil fuels. Because equity must be a central driver of any climate change plans, OPC commissioned an Equity Assessment of Electrification Incentives in the District of Columbia. The study by Applied Economics Clinic (AEC) found that about 27% of the District’s population resides in a so-called “environmental justice community.” They are more likely to be near environmental hazards, are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and bear the brunt of climate change. Low-income residents in the District are also more likely to face a “severe” energy burden—the percentage of household income spent on energy costs. One in 14 District residents are “severely” energy-burdened, meaning they pay more than 10 percent of their income in energy costs. To help ensure that any climate change solutions also address environmental injustice, the study examined the distribution of existing programs that promote electrification and made key recommendations to ensure future investments in electrification equitably benefit District communities, including vulnerable neighborhoods. AEC identified priorities that should influence decision-making, including community engagement and ensuring that electrification programs do not make energy bills more unaffordable for consumers who already face a high energy burden. Programs should prioritize the most equitable funding sources, including federal funding, grant funding, regional funding, and taxpayer funding instead of utility bill surcharges requiring low- and moderate-income residents to fund programs through increases in their energy bills. There are no easy answers to combating climate change but there are solutions that can help make our communities stronger and healthier. All of us must do our part to advance these solutions. And consumers must fully participate in opportunities that bring them to the table to contribute their ideas and express their concerns. OPC’s website, Opc-Dc, has information on how to reduce your energy use, conserve water, and learn more about District government decisions affecting climate change solutions. Sign up there for the OPC Connection, our monthly newsletter and we’ll keep you informed on key developments. Rest assured, OPC will continue to proactively address these important issues as we advocate, educate, and protect DC consumers. Who We Are The Office of the People's Counsel is an independent agency of the District of Columbia government. By law, OPC is the advocate for District consumers of electric, water, natural gas, and telephone services. The Office's mandate is to advocate for the provision of safe and reliable utility service at rates that are just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory; to assist individual consumers in disputes with utility companies; and to provide technical assistance and consumer education to the community and stakeholders. OPC carries out its mission through the work of the following divisions. The Climate Action Division works to ensure that OPC is effectively incorporating District of Columbia sustainability and climate goals into all aspects of our education, outreach, and advocacy. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye launched this Division in 2020 to ensure climate action policy considerations are an integral part of OPC’s operations at a time when climate change threatens the future of our world as we know it. The Litigation Services Division represents consumers in legal matters involving utility companies before the DC Public Service Commission, federal regulatory agencies, and the DC Court of Appeals; and engages in diverse energy, telecommunications, technical, and market monitoring functions. The Consumer Services Division provides education and outreach to consumers on utility and energy issues; assists in the resolution of consumer complaints; and provides technical assistance to lay advocates seeking to participate in the regulatory process. The Water Services Division serves as a voice for water consumers by investigating complaints related to DC Water services, rates, and billing; represents ratepayers at DC Water administrative hearings and rulemaking proceedings, as well as the DC Court of Appeals; and educates water consumers about their legal rights and responsibilities. Contact Information: Phone: (202) 727-3071 Email: info@opc-dc.gov Website: Opc-Dc Twitter & Instagram: @DCOPC Facebook.com/DCPeoplesCounsel

DC Government Agencies File Complaint Against Pepco to Seek Relief for Thousands of Solar Program Participants

The DC Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) today jointly filed a complaint and petition requesting that the Public Service Commission (PSC or Commission) investigate Pepco’s repeated failure to comply with District law governing Community Renewable Energy Facilities (CREF). Through CREF, residents and businesses are able to subscribe to receive shares of electricity generated by a solar facility not on their property and earn credits that reduce their electric bills. This linkage contributes to the District’s efforts to meet its clean energy and climate goals. PDF available for download

Moratorium on Utility Disconnections Ends on January 10, 2022

Consumer Advisory: Financial assistance is available to help customers maintain utility service and pay down bills. PDF available for download

DC People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye to Receive High Honor from National Consumer Advocates Association

The National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) this evening will present the “Robert F. Manifold Lifetime Service Award” to Sandra Mattavous-Frye, People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia, for her “many years of service to utility consumers in Washington, DC.”

The Robert F. Manifold Award is given to “individuals who have demonstrated the highest level of dedication to public service over their career,” said NASUCA Executive Director David Springe in announcing the award. NASUCA’s highest honor, the award is named for Robert F. Manifold, who served as Chief Public Counsel for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and was a passionate supporter of NASUCA.

“I thank NASUCA’s Executive Committee for choosing me for this award and for recognizing that the service I give to District of Columbia consumers comes from my passionate commitment and insistence that consumers are entitled to safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable utility services,” said Mattavous-Frye. She further remarked, “the utility industry has undergone sweeping changes during my 30- year tenure and I predict future changes will be equally far-reaching. While we must prepare for shifting paradigms, we must never lose sight of our fundamental obligation to utility consumers.”

“I accept this award with gratitude for my staff at the Office of the People’s Counsel who are daily in the trenches carrying out our mission. As we all faced difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic, they worked hard to ensure that District residents received the same high level of service OPC delivers during normal times.”

The Manifold Award will be presented at NASUCA’s Virtual Annual Meeting, Monday, November 8, between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm eastern. NASUCA is an association of 55 consumer advocates across the United States and the Caribbean. NASUCA’s members are designated by the laws of their jurisdictions to represent the interests of utility consumers.

Media Contact:

Doxie McCoy

Public Information Officer

(202) 731-9152

dmccoy@opc-dc.gov

OPC Responds to Consumers Reporting Difficulties Contacting WGL Customer Service

Consumer Advisory

Today, in a letter to the DC Public Service Commission Chairman, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye has asked the Commission to look into and work with OPC as soon as possible to resolve any issues related to consumers' ability to contact WGL Customer Services.

Ms. Mattavous-Fry states, “I am reaching out to you to alert you to a serious and growing issue with Washington Gas Light (WGL). The issue involves consumers being unable to reach a person at WGL to either initiate service or set up a service call to fix the existing gas service. My primary concern is that consumers who are reaching out to WGL to establish payment arrangements to pay off past due bills to avoid disconnection are unable to do so.”

The People’s Counsel also shared that “with the moratorium on utility disconnections soon to be lifted, WGL will have no issue disconnecting service. If consumers are disconnected, WGL is likely to require a large down payment to restore service and establish a payment arrangement. Many consumers will be unable to provide the down payment and will face an upcoming winter heating season without gas service. This will compound issues consumers are dealing with during the pandemic.

OPC is encouraging any District of Columbia consumer who has experienced difficulty reaching WGL Customer Service to contact the Office of the People’s Counsel immediately. OPC is working to construct a record and bring your issues before the Public Service Commission in a timely manner.

File a complaint via opc-dc.gov on this link. Consumers also can contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or info@opc-dc.gov.

PDF available for Download

OPC Asks PSC to Modify Pepco Rate Case Decision to Reflect Facts in the Record, Correct Legal Errors, and Protect Consumers from Future Harm

PRESS RELEASE

Washington, DC -- OPC today asked the DC Public Service Commission to reconsider its order approving a Modified Enhanced Multiyear Rate Plan (EMRP). The Modified EMRP is a significantly different form of establishing rates for electric service. In its filing, OPC outlined several areas where the Commission committed legal errors in approving Pepco's new method of ratemaking. Specifically, the Commission’s approval of the Modified EMRP is not based on facts in the record and does not provide a well-reasoned explanation for its approval. In addition, OPC asked the Commission to clarify its decisions on a number of other matters in this case that were not fully explained. “This order is a setback for the District of Columbia because it approves a new method of ratemaking that provides less regulatory oversight of future rate increases, shifts even more economic risks to consumers, and does nothing to advance the city’s climate agenda,” said People’s Counsel, Sandra Mattavous-Frye. “The order ignores other parties’ positions opposing Pepco’s new ratemaking proposal and gives little to no attention to the near unanimous voice of the community strongly opposing a rate increase in the midst of a global pandemic when many consumers are struggling to regain their financial footing. “This case is a watershed moment in the regulatory landscape of the District of Columbia that will have far reaching negative implications for DC residents. As People’s Counsel, I am disappointed that the Commission chose to advance a corporate agenda over the public interest," said Mattavous-Frye. She urges consumers to contact the Commission ASAP and request the PSC change its order to reject the Modified EMRP, address the city’s climate agenda and ensure that any rate increase is just and reasonable during these trying financial times. The Commission now has an opportunity to modify its order to better serve District electric utility consumers. Upon OPC’s review of the PSC’s order on reconsideration, which is expected to be issued this summer, if the Office determines that the Commission did not sufficiently address the legal errors, OPC can appeal the case to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. PDF available for Download

PSC Grants Pepco $108.6 M Rate Increase Through 2023

PRESS RELEASE

PSC Order Granting Pepco a $108.6 Million

Rate Increase through 2023 is

Appalling and Harmful to Ratepayers

Washington, DC -- Earlier this afternoon, the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) approved both a $108.6 million increase to Pepco’s distribution rates and Pepco’s request to implement this increase through a multi-year rate plan. The PSC’s approval comes over the opposition of every active  party in the case—OPC, the Federal Government, the District Government, the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, and the unions—and the opposition of hundreds of community members. The PSC’s action is both unprecedented and frustrating” says People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. “Never before has the Commission approved a rate increase that is over $100 million, granting 80% of what Pepco requested. The rates the PSC approved today are excessive and unsupported by the record and could not come at a worse time when so many of Pepco’s customers are continuing to suffer financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On its face, it does not appear that the PSC has accounted for consumers’ concerns or addressed the hardships that ratepayers are facing today.” “The approval of a three year multiyear rate program compounds the harm,” continued the People’s Counsel. “There was no support in the record for the multiyear rate plan, and the PSC’s approval locks District residents into funding Pepco based on a proposal that was designed to protect the company and its shareholders at the expense of customers.” As the utility regulator, the PSC’s decisions must be consistent with the law, reasoned, and based on evidence in the record. Based on the presentation at the Commission meeting, OPC has serious concerns that the PSC Order does not meet these standards. In the earlier phase of the proceeding, OPC advocated vigorously to ensure that ratepayers received their due process and that the Commission has a well-developed record on which to base its decision. OPC will continue these efforts in the next phase of the case. When the Order is released, OPC will be reviewing it carefully to ensure that any portion of the decision that is not consistent with the law, reasoned, and based on evidence in the record is brought to light and addressed in a reconsideration application. “Pepco’s customers deserve more than the company and the Commission’s callous disregard of customer interests,” said the People’s Counsel. “That is why OPC is in consumers’ corner.”

DC Government Responding to COVID-19

Mayor Bowser Announces Days...times... OPC Encourages Residents to Take Advantage of NEW COVID-19 Rent and Utility Assistance Program While Funds Are Available! To learn more about the STAY DC  program. With All DC Residents 16+ Becoming Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine on April 19, Mayor Bowser Asks All DC Residents to Pre-Register for an AppointmentPR-EOM-4072021.pdf Utility Resources for District Residents During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/utilityhelp Coronavirus Data for March 25, 2021: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/coronavirus-data-march-25-2021 Mayor Bowser announces mortgage assistance for homeowners falling behind on payment due to the pandemic: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-announces-relaunch-dc-mortgage-assistance-program-provide-covid-19-relief Need a Test? Get a Test: District Expands Free COVID-19 Testing at Firehouses Across DC: Need a Test? Get a Test: District Expands Free COVID-19 Testing at Firehouses Across DC

COVID19 Advisory (American Sign)

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COVID19 Advisory (English)

Important details about the lifting of Mayor Bowser’s Stay-At-Home order.  The Public Health Emergency remains in effect and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited…see other details about important government, health, and retail services. OPC Says New DC Council Relief Measures Will Help Utility Consumers Adjust to Higher Bills after COVID-19 Emergency: OPC Says New DC Council Relief Measures Will Help Utility Consumers Adjust to Higher Bills after COVID-19 Emergency Mayor Bower Announces Leadership of ReOpen DC Advisory Group: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-announces-leadership-reopen-dc-advisory-group OPC Files Motion to Suspend Pepco Rate Case during Public Health Emergency: MotionToSuspendR-Ca_4132020.pdf Mayor Bowser Announces Social Distancing Delivery and Pickup Options for DC Medical Marijuana Patients: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-announces-social-distancing-delivery-and-pickup-options-dc-medical-marijuana Mayor Bowser Launches Grocery Sites at DC Schools, Available to All Families: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-launches-grocery-sites-dc-schools-available-all-families Mayor Muriel Bowser presents update regarding DC Government’s Coronavirus Response: COVID19-Situational-Update-Presentation-040820.pdf DC Health information for residents concerned about the COVID-19 virus: COVID-19_web_update-040320.pdf Mayor Bowser issues stay at home order for the District of Columbia: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-issues-stay-home-order FCC warns consumers about COVID-19 Telephone Scams: https://www.fcc.gov/covid-scams DC Attorney General Issues Consumer Alert (COVID – 19) Protecting District Seniors from Financial Exploitation and Abuse: DC_OAG_Consumer_Fraud_Alert.pdf Public Service Commission Shares Resources for Consumers During COVID-19 EmergencyDC_PSC_Resource_Prrl.pdf Mayor Bowser Announces Applications for DC Small Business Recovery Micro-grants and SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for those Impacted by the Coronavirus Outbreak are now available online: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/recovery-business DC Water Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, David L. Gadis, join leaders from 18 states in request to Congress to consider the impact of COVID-19 on communities across the nation: 03.24.20 water utility letter to congress DC Water to Restore Service to Disconnected Residents…morehttps://www.dcwater.com/whats-going-on/news/dc-water-restores-water-service-disconnected-residents Washington Gas Suspends Disconnections, Waives Late Fees, Offers Payment Arrangements During Coronavirus Pandemichttps://www.washingtongas.com/media-center/coronavirus METRO Announces Service Changes in Response to COVID-19https://www.wmata.com/about/news/COVID-19-Service-Update-3.cfm#main-content Mayor Bowser Extends Modified DC Operating Status: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-extends-modified-district-operating-status-and-prohibition-mass-gatherings Council Unanimously Passes Emergency COVID-19 Response Billhttps://dccouncil.us/council-unanimously-passes-emergency-covid-19-response-bill/ DC Issues Updated Health Advisory Regarding Mass Gatheringshttps://coronavirus.dc.gov/release/mayor%E2%80%99s-order-2020-048-prohibition-mass-gatherings-during-public-health-emergency Mayor Bowser Orders a Prohibition Against Mass Gatherings, read the full order hereMO-Prohibition-on-Mass-Gatherings-During-Public-Health-Emergency.pdf Keep Up To Date on the Coronavirus within the DC Area… https://coronavirus.dc.gov/ During Modified DC Govt Operations These Services Remain Availablehttps://dc.gov/release/during-modified-dc-government-operations-many-services-still-operating

OPC Encourages Residents to Take Advantage of NEW COVID-19 Rent and Utility Assistance Program While Funds Are Available!

Consumer Advisory

OPC Encourages Residents to Take Advantage of NEW COVID-19 Rent and Utility Assistance Program While Funds Are Available!

DC People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye wants consumers struggling to pay rent or utility bills due to the pandemic to know they now have more resources to call on. The Office of the People's Counsel commends Mayor Muriel Bowser for launching "Stronger Together by Assisting You" (STAY DC), a program funded with $350 million in targeted COVID-19 relief from the federal government.

To qualify for STAY DC, you must be a renter or housing provider in the District who is at risk, or has a tenant at risk, of not paying rent or utilities on a residential dwelling, and meet income eligibility requirements here. Renters whose landlords do not participate in the program or who normally make payments directly to utilities may be able to have assistance go straight to their utility companies.

Renters and housing providers can apply for rental and electric, gas and water bill assistance at stay.dc.gov, Applicants can call the STAY DC Call Center at 833-4-STAYDC for support throughout their application process, Monday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm.

“We know many consumers have been forced to make hard choices, often between food, medicine, paying the rent or utility bills and have fallen behind. STAY DC can help take the economic pressure off and give consumers a chance to catch up, but we must get residents to apply before the funding goes away,” stated People’s Counsel Mattavous-Frye.

See more details below.

PDF available for Download

PSC Response to COVID-19 Is Long Overdue

On Thursday March 4th, ten months after OPC filed its petition requesting the DC Public Service Commission investigate ways to help consumers impacted by COVID-19, the PSC issued an order providing a few measures to assist utility consumers struggling to pay utility bills during the pandemic. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye stated that “While the Public Service Commission has finally taken some action to protect consumers, I am disappointed that none of the measures provide immediate relief to consumers. Had the Commission taken action ten months ago, it would have been more effective in stemming the tide of over $43,000,000 in arrearages that have built up during the pandemic. The relief measures, which include some proposed by OPC, require the utilities to take the following three steps:
  1. Provide consumers with 45 days notice prior to disconnection of service. The notice can be sent once the Mayor lifts the public health emergency.
  2. requires Washington Gas Light to file a proposed arrearage management plan by April 19, 2021. An arrearage management plan is a debt relief program that allows consumers to make a set number of payments to the utility and have the balance of their arrearages written off.
  3. requires utility companies to offer 12-month payment plans to customers in arrears.
In addition to requiring the utilities to provide relief measures, the PSC also increased the eligibility requirements for the two low-income energy programs, Residential Essential Service for natural gas service and Residential Aid Discount for electric service, allowing more consumers to receive discounted utility service. “Considering the long-term impact of the pandemic on utility consumers I am also concerned that the Commission has not taken this opportunity to immediately convene a stakeholder forum to develop other relief measures. Complex public policy issues are developed through the process of stakeholders asking the right questions and using their expertise and resources to develop answers. Now, more than ever, a collaborative stakeholder process is needed. Sadly, the Commission has chosen to wait until after the public health emergency ends to begin this critical process. I remain committed to developing solutions and will continue to work with stakeholders to craft measures that will provide relief to consumers now," stated People’s Counsel Frye. PDF available for Download

Pepco’s Customer Base Rate Credit to Expire This Week. Residential Bills to Go Up

Consumer Alert

Pepco's Customer Base Rate Credit to Expire This Week Residential Bills to Go Up

The Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia is alerting Pepco consumers that electric bills are going up as the Customer Base Rate Credit (CBRC) will expire this week.

The CBRC is a benefit OPC won for residential consumers as part of the Pepco-Exelon merger settlement. The CBRC has been used to offset rate increases in the distribution portion of residential bills for the last 5 years. The net savings to consumers over the 5-year period is $25.6 million. However, since credit funds have been exhausted, Pepco is adjusting customer bills to reflect an immediate increase. That means the average residential bill will increase about $1.37 a month in the upcoming billing cycle.

OPC recognizes that a higher electric bill can be a financial burden to households struggling from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, since the start of the crisis, OPC has urged consumers to take advantage of relief programs and payment plans. Currently, the District's public health emergency declaration prohibits utilities from disconnecting service due to non-payment. Nonetheless, OPC encourages consumers to pay what they can now, find out if they are eligible for utility financial assistance programs, and sign up for bill payment plans, so their bills won't be out of control when the moratoriums are lifted.

To learn more about bill payment assistance, contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or info@opc-dc.gov

PDF available for Download

DC PSC Denies OPC Request to Dismiss Pepco Rate Increase Case

PSC Rejects Request to Dismiss Pepco's Application for Huge Rate Hike, A Decision OPC Predicts Will Lead to Negative Impacts for Consumers Already Struggling During Pandemic

Washington, DC - The Office of the People's Counsel reports that the Public Service Commission yesterday issued an order denying OPC's motion to dismiss Pepco's request to increase rates by $135.9 million. The denial of OPC's motion, which was supported by all the non-utility parties in this case, and numerous community advocates, signals the potential for two dismal future outcomes - one, if the Commission approves a huge rate increase, it will be based upon a constantly changing evidentiary record and two, Pepco can have just about anything it wants, both outcomes to the detriment of DC ratepayers. "Time and again throughout this case, Pepco has expressed a callous disregard for the impact of its shocking rate increase request and the reality of the unprecedented economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers. In reaching its decision, the Commission allows Pepco to continue its tactics and ratepayers pay the price," said People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. "There is more than ample basis to dismiss Pepco's rate application and require the company to re-file its case. Instead of dismissing the case, the Commission is ordering OPC and the other parties to continue to address Pepco's fundamentally-flawed proposals on a shortened timeline. If rates are increased based on this record, consumers will not only be paying much higher rates,but I fear consumers will lose confidence in this Commission's ability to be an impartial regulator," the People's Counsel said. If one of Pepco's multiyear rate plans is approved as proposed, the average residential bill could go up by $103 in the first year of the rate plan. Despite the disappointing outcome of this decision, OPC will continue to advocate for consumers' rights to reasonable rates and for COVID-19 relief measures that are not tied to granting Pepco a huge rate increase. The PSC has scheduled a virtual community hearing on next Tuesday, September 29 at 2 p.m. Consumers who want to voice their opinion on this case can submit comments online here, or email: PSC-CommisionSecretary@dc.gov until the close of the hearing record. Reference: Formal Case No. 1156. You also can contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or info@opc-dc.gov for more information or technical assistance with written testimony. Media Contact: 

Doxie McCoy Public Information Officer (202) 731-9152 dmccoy@opc-dc.gov

OPC Calls Washington Gas Rate Hike Proposal Excessive & Lacking Key Support for DC Climate Action Goals

Washington, DC - In testimony filed today before the DC Public Service Commission (PSC), People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous Frye opposes Washington Gas Light's request for a $35.2 million rate increase, $9.1 million of which are increases stemming from the company's PROJECTpipes accelerated gas pipeline replacement program. Should the Commission approve this request, it would increase the average residential bill by almost $13 per month. "An increase of this magnitude would further exacerbate the utility energy burden consumers are coping with during the COVID-19 pandemic," said the People's Counsel. "WGL's proposed rate increase is excessive, improperly shifts the company's business risk to its ratepayers and otherwise seeks rate increases in connection with PROJECTpipes despite lackluster performance and uneven benefits for consumers." After a thorough review of the utility's 1,600-page application, and engaging in an aggressive campaign to force Washington Gas to provide full and accurate information to support its proposals, OPC has determined that the proposed rate increases and plans are not in the public interest because they: (1) increase customer bills by almost 17%; (2) unfairly shift business risk from WGL to its ratepayers through its Revenue Adjustment Mechanism, that allows WGL to recover lost revenues due to decreases in gas sales resulting from energy efficiency or warmer winter weather; (3) seek recoupment of costs for operation of the PROJECTpipes accelerated pipeline replacement program that has not given ratepayers measurable benefits; and (4) show no evidence of true support of the District's climate action goals during the test year. OPC has further determined that WGL is entitled to no more than $6.5 Million in additional revenues. "OPC has, and will continue to vigorously oppose any utility proposal that harms consumers and does not clearly advance the District's environmental goals and modernization policies," said People's Counsel Mattavous-Frye. OPC will educate consumers about the details of Washington Gas Light's proposal and OPC's position through virtual outreach events in all wards of the city. Consumers who want to voice their concerns or positions in this case can do so by submitting comments online here or via mail to: Commission Secretary, Brinda Westbrook Sedgwick, Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia,1325 G Street NW, Suite 800. Attn: Formal Case No. 1162. You also can contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or  info@opc-dc.gov.

OPC warns consumers; “Don’t Believe the Rate Case Hype”

Consumer fact sheet

Myths and the Facts About Pepco’s Request To Implement A Multiyear Rate Plan And Increase Electric Distribution Rates (DC PSC Formal Case No. 1156)

 

PDF available for Download

On May 30, 2019, Pepco filed for a $162 million rate increase  with the DC Public Service Commission requesting that the Commission abandon its current method for setting rates and instead authorize a multiyear rate plan (MRP) that would allow Pepco to set rates using  forecasted costs to cover the Company’s costs for 2020, 2021 and 2022.  OPC reviewed Pepco’s original plan and concluded that Pepco’s request, including its MRP, should not be approved as filed. The emergence of the COVID-19 emergency further exacerbated the deleterious impact Pepco’s plan would have on District ratepayers as they faced health issues and skyrocketing unemployment.   OPC, AOBA, the District Government and GSA requested the PSC suspend the hearing during the emergency. The PSC denied the request but asked all parties to file comments detailing the impact of COVID-19 on their cases.

In response, Pepco unilaterally submitted a new MRP and reduced its request to    $135.9 million.   The new proposal, however, contains numerous provisions that parties to the case have not reviewed, nor would they have an opportunity to do so under the current procedural schedule.  OPC and the other parties filed a Motion to Strike and Request for Summary Judgement to protect the public’s due process rights and ensure the public’s right to a transparent evidentiary record. The PSC denied our Motion but will entertain responsive testimony from the parties.

Rate cases are by definition complex. Pepco’s multi-year rate plan raises the level of complexity to exponential levels. This is not the time or case  to circumvent the regulatory process and compromise adequate review by OPC and the parties. Reducing the inflated rate increase and delaying the impact of the increase, notably using ratepayer money, is by no means beneficial to ratepayers. A thorough analysis of Pepco’s new plan will protect the integrity of the regulatory process.

 

Myths and Facts of FC 1156:

Myth # 1: Pepco’s reduction of its proposed rate request from $162 to $135 million and return on equity from 10.3 percent to 9.7 percent is reasonable.
Fact: • Pepco’s original request was over-inflated and higher than any rate increase ever approved by the Commission.
Myth # 2: Pepco is proposing to freeze customer energy delivery rates until 2022.
Fact: • Pepco is not freezing rates. If the Pepco’s new MRP is approved, rates will go up by $135.9 million between 2020 and 2022. Pepco appears to be proposing to offset the rate increase in 2020 and 2021 by accelerating the return of certain funds Pepco owes its customers - customers will still pay for the rate increase, but with money owed to them that Pepco already has in its bank. • Pepco also plans to file for another rate increase in 2022. If Pepco’s new proposal is approved as submitted, in 2023, customers will be subject to the $135.9 million rate increase from this proposal and whatever rate increase comes out of the next proposal the Commission approves.
Myth # 3: Pepco’s MRP needs to be approved to get the proposed customer protections.
Fact: • Pepco’s proposed customer assistance programs have no relation to an MRP. Regardless of how its rates are set, Pepco can and should work with stakeholders to implement customer assistance programs such as modifying arrearage management programs and extending payment plans beyond the 12-month schedule that Council legislation requires.
Myth # 4: Pepco has not raised rates since 2014.
Fact: • Pepco’s rates have changed twice since 2014, but customer bills have been protected because OPC negotiated a customer base rate credit (CBRC) as part of the merger settlement. In 2017, due to OPC’s advocacy, the Commission approved less than half of Pepco’s requested $85.5 million rate increase. In 2018, Pepco requested a $66.2 million increase, but OPC negotiated a $24.1 million decrease in Pepco’s rates and an increase to the CBRC.
Myth # 5: Pepco has drastically reduced its rate increase request in consideration of the COVID 19 pandemic impacts on the District.
Fact: • Pepco has revised its request several times over the course of the proceeding. It is currently requesting either a $147.2 (original proposal) or $135.9 million (June 1, 2020 proposal) rate increase.
Date Pepco’s Requested Increase
Initial Application, 5/30/2019 $162 million
Supplemental Testimony, 9/16/2019 $160 million
Supplemental Testimony (by PSC Order), 2/20/2020 $157.9 million
Rebuttal Testimony 4/8/2020 $147.2 million
Enhanced MRP 6/1 2020 $135.9 million
Myth # 6: Pepco’s June 1 proposal is merely an enhancement of its earlier proposal.
Fact: • Pepco’s June 1’s MRP is radically different than its earlier proposal. Ratepayers and the public have a right to investigate and comment on the utility’s applications in its entirety. PSC Order No. 20368 will permit OPC and the intervenors to submit additional testimony on the new filing.
Myth # 7: 39 states have adopted a plan similar to Pepco’s.
Fact: • Only 17 states have one or more utilities with an MRP, and none of those plans are like either of Pepco’s plans. •39 states, including the District, have adopted alternative ratemaking mechanisms, including various surcharges that help utilities recover revenue faster. For example, Pepco has benefited from the bill stabilization adjustment which allows Pepco to charge customers more if the Company does not collect its expected revenue. Pepco also has a surcharge mechanism to collect powerline undergrounding (DC PLUG) costs.
Myth # 8: Pepco’s proposal supports the District’s environmental and climate objectives.
Fact: • Pepco has provided no evidence that its original or its amended plan will support these objectives. OPC and DOEE witnesses have found that the plan does not support a cleaner, smarter, sustainable environment or otherwise advance the District’s ambitious environmental and climate action goals.
Myth # 9: Pepco is like other commercial businesses.
Fact: • Pepco is not like other commercial businesses – Pepco is a regulated company. The Company’s ratepayers pay all of the Company’s cost of providing service and its shareholders can earn a 9.5% return on their equity investments.
Myth # 10: Pepco’s MRP provides long-term benefits to consumers.
Fact: • Pepco has not demonstrated any long-term benefits to consumers from its MRP. Short term benefits do not suffice.
Myth # 11: Pepco’s philanthropic contributions are substantial.
Fact: • Pepco’s charitable contributions have no bearing on the merits of this rate proceeding.

OPC will keep consumers up-to-date on this case.   Contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or info@opc-dc.gov for more information.

Water Services Division Progress Report Highlights OPC’s Success in Serving DC Water Consumers

Washington, DC -- The Office of the People's Counsel for the District of Columbia today released the "OPC Water Services Division 2019-2020 Progress Report," which documents the numerous benefits OPC has provided to water consumers since becoming the statutory representative for DC Water ratepayers in April 2019. "Prior to April 11, 2019, DC Water consumers lacked an independent advocate to voice their concerns about disconnections, high bills, water leaks, and other issues. They also lacked a viable place at the table when rate increases were considered," said People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. "Since OPC came onboard, DC Water customers have received tangible benefits. Our continuing work is especially important now as residents adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and water is needed as a life-saving protection." April 11, 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of the DC Water Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2018, the law that gave OPC the authority to represent DC water customers and led to the creation of the Water Services Division of OPC. The Progress Report cites examples of WSD's accomplishments. During its first year OPC:
  • Addressed more than 450 consumer complaints
  • Negotiated more than $45,000 in bill credits to consumers
  • Prompted DC Water to increase transparency in its operations
  • Worked on legislation giving low-income residents access to more bill payment assistance
The OPC Water Services Division 2019-2020 Progress Report is available here. With this release, OPC is launching #WaterWednesdayWisdom, a periodic series of digital messages that will inform consumers about WSD initiatives, educational information and industry trends.

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Media Contact: Doxie McCoy Public Information Officer (202) 261-1180 dmccoy@opc-dc.gov

The Office of the People’s Counsel Statement on George Floyd in Observance of the National Day of Mourning for Racial Reconciliation

OPC Observes National Day of Mourning for Racial Reconciliation

Statement on George Floyd OPC Observes National Day of Mourning for Racial Reconciliation

 

Washington, DC -- As memorial services begin in Minneapolis today for George Floyd, the Office of the People's Counsel for the District of Columbia joins the civil rights community in observing a National Day of Mourning and calling for racial justice. People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye makes the following statement.

"The mandate of the Office of the People's Counsel is to advocate for quality utility service and equitable treatment for the residents of the nation's capital at rates that are just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory. During the national crisis marked by the senseless death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, we also insist that Washingtonians and all Americans are entitled to equitable treatment by police and must not be the victims of racial injustice or discrimination.

"Like Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District leaders, I believe in the right of the people to protest and speak out against police brutality and systemic racism. Peaceful demonstrations must not be overshadowed by the few acts of violence by those with other agendas. As an attorney, I also call for justice for Mr. Floyd's family as those allegedly responsible for his tragic death face charges.

"Moving forward, I wholeheartedly support the demands for police reform, racial reconciliation and substantive dialogue on how to create a world where people of color can live without fear.

New OPC Study Reveals Solar Potential in DC Wards & Impact on Renewable Energy Goals

Contact:  Doxie A. McCoy, Public Information Officer (202) 731-9152, dmccoy@opc-dc.gov Washington, DC-- The Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia (OPC) today released a new analysis of the feasibility of solar deployment in the city. In “The Future of Solar Study for the District of Columbia,” the findings reveal the differences in solar potential on a ward level and the suitability of particular options for generating solar power across the wards. The Future of Solar Study shows clear differences.  For example, Wards 2,3,5, and 6 appear to have greater potential for private rooftop installations while shared community solar projects, developed for large building rooftops or parking lot canopy, would be the best option for Wards 5,6,7 and 8. The study also found that Wards 2 and 3 are falling far short on what is technically and economically possible. Compared to other wards, Wards 4,7 and 8 have shown better progress toward reducing the gap between their potential and actual solar deployment. This latest analysis builds on OPC’s “Value of Solar Study,” which in 2017, focused on the potential for deploying solar and other distributed energy resources District-wide.  Both studies were undertaken in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Clean Energy States Alliance, a national, a nonprofit coalition of public agencies and organizations working together to advance clean energy. The 2020 findings indicated that the District could achieve its mandated goal of generating 100% of electricity through renewable energy by 2032. The study found this goal is technically feasible to achieve and development of rooftop and parking lot solar systems is a critical element. However, generating 10% retail electricity consumption from DC-specific solar deployment by 2041 requires substantial ongoing investment and engagement by the District government, stakeholders, and developers. Analysis of bill impacts indicate that an average residential customer is expected to realize a reduction of about $8 per year. “OPC supports the District’s noble objective of building a carbon-free sustainable environment,” said People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. “And our data-driven studies can serve as a blueprint and resource for the city and stakeholders as we work together to execute the mandated goals and strive to widen access to solar energy for consumers in all eight wards.” OPC’s Future of Solar Study also found that the price of electricity from solar is slightly higher than electricity generated from fossil fuel. However, the rapid reduction in the price of solar panels will most likely make the price of solar-powered electricity less expensive than the price of electricity generated from other sources. The study is available here.   Social Media: Twitter: @DCOPC Facebook:  facebook.com/DCPeoplesCounsel Instagram: @DCOPC Website:  opc-dc

OPC Says New DC Council Relief Measures Will Help Utility Consumers Adjust to Higher Bills after COVID-19 Emergency

CONSUMER ALERT

OPC Says New DC Council Relief Measures Will Help Utility Consumers Adjust to Higher Bills after COVID-19 Emergency

  The Office of the People's Counsel welcomes DC Council passage of the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 on May 19.  The legislation that OPC helped to craft mandates payment plans to assist consumers with managing electric, gas, water, and telecommunications bills during the public health emergency and up to six months after it's lifted. Among the bill's provisions, utilities are required to offer payment plans extending for at least one year to eligible customers upon request; they are prohibited from reporting delinquencies to credit agencies; and cannot require a lump-sum payment under plans. *In addition, consumers may file a written complaint with OPC if they are denied a payment plan. [*An earlier alert stated that utilities must contact OPC if a consumer is denied a payment plan. However, notification is not a requirement.] "We thank Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie for his leadership, and the entire Council, for taking these steps to assist consumers who may not be able to afford their utility bills down the line," says People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. Previous Council acts mandated moratoriums on disconnections; most utilities also decided to waive late fees and restore service despite arrears. OPC believes the latest action is a key element in assisting households who, as they stay at home, are using more energy and water for their well-being but at the same time are experiencing higher bills. During Mayor Muriel Bowser's stay-at-home order, OPC staff is teleworking and remotely responding to consumer complaints related to their water, electric, natural gas and local phone utilities. Consumers should contact (202) 727-3071 for help with a service or billing issue, or file a complaint @ opc-dc.gov.

Mayor Bowser Announces Days and Hours of Walk-Up Vaccination Sites

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Bowser is reminding residents that on Saturday, May 1, the District will transition from using a pre-registration system for vaccinations to the use of 11 walk-up, no appointment needed sites across DC. Currently, walk-up sites are open for DC residents 65 and older, with one site for residents of Wards 7 and 8 who are 18 and older. Beginning Saturday, May 1, the walk-up sites will be open to all DC residents 18 and older.

On Saturday, May 1, when Mayor Bowser is hosting a citywide Day of Action, 10 of the 11 walk-up sites will have special hours. Additionally, on Saturday, May 1, three of the walk-up sites will administer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine; after Saturday, those three sites will use either the two-dose Pfizer vaccine or the two-dose Moderna vaccine. The schedule for May 1 as well as the normal operating schedule for May can be seen below. Saturday, May 1 will be the last day the Entertainment and Sports Arena is used as a vaccination site; after May 1, vaccinations will be at the RISE Demonstration Center which is also on the St. Elizabeths campus.

When residents go to a walk-up site for their first dose, they will make an appointment to receive their second dose. The walk-up sites should only be used for second doses if an individual has an appointment for a second dose at that site.

The walk-up sites will be in addition to the pharmacies, clinics, and health care providers that are also administering the vaccines citywide. These sites will operate their own scheduling systems, and residents who prefer to make an appointment instead of visiting a walk-up site are encouraged to make an appointment at a pharmacy, clinic, or health care provider. Residents can find information about available vaccines at vaccinefinder.org. Children’s National continues to serve as the vaccination site for DC residents who are 16 and 17 years old, and the Children’s National registration page can be accessed HERE.

Residents who are unable to leave home to get vaccinated can still call 1-855-363-0333 to make an appointment for a free at-home vaccination.

On Saturday, May 1, Mayor Bowser is hosting a Day of Action when volunteers will canvass neighborhoods and help residents make a plan to get their free COVID-19 vaccine. Community members interested in joining the effort and helping neighbors make a plan to get vaccinated should visit bit.ly/dayofactiondc.

St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Ward 7 is hosting Faith in the Vaccine clinics today, April 28, and tomorrow, April 29. Emory Fellowship United Methodist Church in Ward 4 is hosting a Faith in the Vaccine clinic on Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1. And Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, will host Faith in the Vaccine clinics on Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8.

Later today, DC Health will release updated guidance around the use of masks, which will align the District’s guidance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OPC Continues to Serve Consumers in Response to Covid-19 Health Emergency

The Office of the People's Counsel to

Continuing Providing Support for Utility

Consumers During Health Crisis

 

PDF available for Download

In response to the public health emergency created by the COVID-19 virus and to protect District ratepayers from the spread of the virus, effective Monday March 16th @ 9:00 AM, the Office of the People's Counsel will begin serving consumers remotely. Consumers seeking to address a utility consumer complaint may do so online at www.opc-dc.gov using OPC's consumer complaint form, or by calling our office at 202-727-3071. OPC Consumer Complaint Specialists will return your call within 24 hours. Persons who are unable to file online and seek to meet with a complaint specialist in-person must do so by calling (202) 727-3071 to arrange an appointment. On March 10, People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye sent a letter to each locally operating utility to ascertain how it will adjust their consumer service and payment policies during this health crisis. OPC urged the utilities to take action to facilitate the continued provision of essential utility service during this period. Pepco has indicated it has set a moratorium on the disconnection of electric service for all customers until May 1. In addition, the company will waive late fees during this period and extend special payment terms to consumers. DC Water will also suspend water service disconnections and waive late fees for customers during this crisis. Verizon has suspended disconnections to residential and small business consumers affected by disruptions caused by the Coronavirus for 60 days. OPC will forward information regarding Washington Gas Light's policies as they are developed.   Media Contact: Doxie McCoy Public Information Officer (202) 261-1180 dmccoy@opc-dc.gov

Pepco’s $81 Million Rate Increase and Proposed Multiyear Rate Plan Unfairly Burdens DC Utility Consumers

PDF available for Download

Washington, DC - In testimony filed today before the DC Public Service Commission (PSC), People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous Frye opposes Pepco's request for a $81 million rate increase and the establishment of a Multiyear Rate Plan. "Pepco's proposed rate increase is excessive, places an unfair and unacceptable energy burden on DC consumers and should be rejected," she said. People's Counsel Mattavous Frye added, "OPC will vigorously oppose any proposal that harms consumers or impedes a thorough review of a utility company's request to increase rates. I made it clear when Pepco filed this case, my goal is to ensure that any rate plan authorized by the DC PSC both generates real, tangible benefits for District consumers and supports the District's environmental goals and modernization policies. Pepco's multiyear rate proposal  harms consumers, fails to deliver benefits and is not needed in order to meet the District's short- or long-term environmental goals." In May 2019, Pepco filed an Application to Implement A Multiyear Rate Plan for Electric Distribution Service in the District of Columbia ("Application") with two separate components: a proposed plan to change the way in which rates are set that would give the Company pre-authorized approval to increase rates each year over a three-year period, called a ("Multiyear Rate Plan" ("MRP"), along with a traditional rate case in which Pepco seeks to increase rates by $81 million. After a thorough review of the company's 2,000-page Application OPC has determined that Pepco's multiyear rate proposal is not in the public interest because it: (1) may increase customer bills; (2) weakens the Commission's and OPC's regulatory review process; (3) violates the majority of PSC policy requirements for any new ratemaking proposal; and (4) does nothing to truly support the District's Grid Modernization and Climate Action goals. The Company's expansive construction plan budget does not have one Distributed Energy Resource Project or Non-Wires Alternative such as battery storage or solar. OPC has further determined that Pepco is entitled to no more than $25 Million in additional revenues. Shockingly, if Pepco's request is granted, on average, it would increase residential rates by $10 per month in the first year. This would be followed by pre-approved rate increases over the next two-year period.

OPC will continue to educate consumers about the details of Pepco's proposal and OPC's position through outreach events in all parts of the city. If you want to express your concerns about Pepco's request to change the ratemaking process and increase rates, contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or info@opc-dc.gov and we will inform you how to participate in the process.

  Media Contact: Doxie McCoy Public Information Officer (202) 261-1180 dmccoy@opc-dc.gov

OPC is on the Radio! New Podcast to Cover Pressing Local & National Utility & Energy News

PDF available for Download

Washington, DC –On Monday, March 9, 2020 the Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia is launching “OPC Radio Connect,” a podcast hosted by People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye.  Through a partnership with DC Radio, a channel of the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, OPC Radio Connect will feature information on a variety of utility and energy-related issues such as climate change, careers in energy and utility scams. The podcast also will delve into how OPC serves DC utility consumers. OPC Radio Connect will air Monday – Friday mornings from 7:00 – 7:30 AM on DC Radio 96.3 HD4 (WHUR’s HD frequency), on DCRADIO.GOV, DC Radio on iPhone and Android apps, Tunein.com, and on Google and Alexa. The program is available “on-demand” on various podcast apps such as AppleSoundCloud and Spotify. “OPC Radio Connect is a creative extension of OPC’s outreach to consumers that will inform them of the latest news and trends affecting their utilities,” said People’s Counsel Mattavous-Frye. “We welcome OPC Radio Connect to the DC Radio lineup and look forward to timely topics about the utility and energy world,” said DC Radio General Manager Maxx Myrick. People’s Counsel Mattavous-Frye will lead lively discussions with national figures, local experts and OPC’s knowledgeable staff.

Media Contact: Doxie McCoy Public Information Officer (202) 261-1180 dmccoy@opc-dc.gov