The OPC Connection – April 2021

A Note from Your People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye

OPC is Fighting for Affordable Climate Change Solutions

On April 22, “Restore Our Earth” was on our minds as the world focused on that theme of Earth Day 2021. On the first Earth Day in 1970, the focus was on threats to the environment and human health by polluting cars, power plants and factories. OPC was an early advocate supporting energy efficiency, environmental justice, and clean air. We collaborated with the Consumer Utility Board to produce “Sharing the Burdens of Electricity Conservation in the District,” in 1979; joined the fight against the Pepco Benning Road Coal Plant in the eighties, and commissioned the first DC Value of Solar Study in 2017.

Over the decades, the political winds have blown environmental laws and consciousness in every direction. Today, however, I am confident for the future, as the Biden Administration, the District Government and other states are taking major steps toward positive climate action, clean energy, and electrification.

I also am pleased that many have recognized that tackling environmental injustice is a key component in addressing climate change, and equity and affordability must be a part of the conversation. In fact, “Restoration and Resolutions to Environmental Injustice” is the theme of The Washington Informer Newspaper’s 2021 Sustainability Supplement in Observance of Earth Day here.

Each year, the supplement presents a valuable platform to share OPC’s vision. Thanks for turning to page 9 to read my column: “OPC is Fighting for Affordable Climate Change Solutions.”

OPC’s Water Services Division (WSD) hosted its first-ever forum on April 27, 2021 to mark OPC’s second anniversary as the statutory advocate for DC Water consumers. The virtual webinar featured discussions on preventing flooding and relief programs to assist consumers struggling with water bills dueto the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts shared resources and steps to take to protect personal property, including flood insurance and the backwater valve program.

Attendees learned the responsibilities of DC Government agencies and DC Water during a flood and who to contact when property is damaged. Representatives from the DC Department of Energy and Environment, District Department of Transportation, DC Water, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, and OPC’s Climate Change Section shared useful information

Highlights included:

  • Climate change and its impact on weather, government operations, and the public’s role
  • Homeowner and renter’s insurance coverage and the claims process
  • District flood areas, the city’s response during a flooding event and mitigation resources
  • Relationship between the water/sewer system and the road system
  • How DC geography contributes to flooding and flood risk reduction

The forum also cited WSD’s accomplishments since the April 2019 launch of the division. “We are proud of WSD’s success in resolving water consumers’ concerns and complaints,” said People’s Counsel Saundra Mattavous-Frye. “The build-up of calls and cases over two years is evidence that residents were in need of assistance.”

If you have a service or billing issue, contact the OPC Water Services Division at (202) 727-3071 or

OPC is working to resolve a very unique complaint and has been in touch with various parties to get the consumer relief from a bothersome and potentially dangerous situation.

In December 2020, the office of Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray alerted OPC about the concerns of Aneesa Salaam. OPC reached out to the Northeast resident and she informed OPC that she has 20 utility meters in her basement that serve several homes on her block. Ms. Salaam explained that over the past 20 years, she has requested the utility companies remove the 10 natural gas and 10 water meters from her home to no avail.

OPC contacted Washington Gas Light (WGL) and DC Water in an attempt to have the utility companies remove the meters. After several discussions, OPC arranged a site visit to Ms. Salaam’s home on March 23, where OPC staffers, WGL representatives and staff from the Public Service Commission’s Compliance and Enforcement Division viewed the unusual installation of meters seen in the photos below. OPC pointed out that having other consumers’ meters in Ms. Salaam’s home was an inconvenience to her as she had to provide access to utility workers to service the meters of other customers. Of more concern was possible flooding damage should one of the10 water meters rupture or the danger of a possible explosion if one of the 10 gas meters leaked.

On April 21, WGL sent a letter to OPC proposing to resolve the matter but only if Ms. Salaam and her neighborspay thousands of dollars for each meter to be relocated outside their home.

Ms. Salaam has refused this offer and has filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission seeking to have Washington Gas remove its meters at their expense.

We also are in discussions with DC Water on her behalf. OPC will see this case through and provide updates.

Water and Gas Meters inAneesa Salaam’s basement

OPC recently has received increased reports of apparent utility scams targeting seniors, low income, and limited English-speaking residents. They tell OPC pretenders are going door-to-door claiming to be from Washington Gas or Pepco. Scammers, for example, ask consumers to show their bill so they can receive “discounts,” or make claims of “switching from an analog to a smart meter.”

Utility companies rarely visit your home unless there is a public safety emergency nor go door-to-door to discuss rates. Always ask for ID when someone knocks on your door. DO NOT PROVIDE ANY ACCOUNTNUMBERS OR OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Call OPC at (202) 727-3071, the utilities or the police to report suspicious activity. Don’t be fooled!

OPC welcomed representatives of numerousDistrict government agencies, DC Council offices, nonprofits, and academic and faith-based institutions to the second 2021 COVID-19 Social Services Summit on March 31. The session gave special attention to relief programs and initiatives that support consumers struggling financially due to the pandemic.

OPC holds a summit each year to give like-minded consumer and social services advocates an opportunity to showcase their programs and outreach activities. This year, OPC will be hosting the meetings quarterly to help bolster relationships that help OPC and partners better serve utility consumers during this critical moment in time.

This second meeting gave attendees the opportunity to take a detailed look into the programs and services available to assist DC residents with utility and other wrap-around services. Feedback noted that the presentations and conversations were engaging and informative. OPC is excited to continue the trend with the next meeting in June.

Why an Energy Audit?

The simple answer is why not? Energy audits, whether for residential or commercial spaces, give a professional assessment and understanding of how your property uses its energy. An audit reveals where your home or commercial space is losing energy, and its inefficiencies, with clearly identifiable problem areas and working solutions. The energy audit must be your first step, especially for older structures, for maximizing efficiencies to reduce high heating and cooling bills. Even if you are considering going solar, be sure to incorporate a professional energy audit in your solar plans to create a tighter structure for maximum solar output.

Specifically, a professional energy audit provides a room-by-room assessment of all problem areas such as inadequate insulation, cracks under doors and windows, inefficient heating and cooling systems, lighting, and more. The typical audit takes about three hours for a 3,000 square foot home.

Commercial spaces require a more specialized and technical energy audit because of the constraints of larger and more technical heating and cooling systems. A residential auditor may or may not be a specialized commercial auditor, as the process for each is different. Be sure to choose the appropriate professional.

Commercial spaces require a more specialized and technical energy audit because of the constraints of larger and more technical heating and cooling systems. A residential auditor may or may not be a specialized commercial auditor, as the process for each is different. Be sure to choose the appropriate professional.

The OPC Connection is introducing readers to OPC staff, their responsibilities, and how they are “Connecting the Dots…” to bring services to DC utility consumers.

Attorney Karen R. Sistrunk is our Deputy People’s Counsel. Pictured with a consumer to the right, Ms. Sistrunk is the primary policy advisor to People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye in carrying out OPC’s mission to advocate, educate and protect consumers. In addition to working side by side with the People’s Counsel, Deputy Sistrunk oversees the management of the Litigation, Consumer, and Water Services Divisions. Staff cite her nurturing but firm demeanor as bringing out their creative ideas and high quality work product to achieve the agency goals.

In 2006, Ms. Sistrunk began leading the Consumer Services Division, andremains very much involved in the division’s functions and implementation of its programs. Deputy Sistrunk considers among her major accomplishments developing OPC’s Water Services Division (WSD) two years ago, including hiring and training legal and outreach staff. The Deputy People’s Counsel also was instrumental in the creation of OPC’s Climate Change Section in July 2020, which she currently manages. She is now working with other staff to develop strong legal advocacy and consumer outreach policies to promote aggressive decarbonization and a healthy sustainable environment in a way that is equitable and affordable for all District residents.

Attorney Sistrunk has been a voice for utility consumers by passionately advocating on their behalf at the DC Council, DC Public Service Commission, and District of Columbia Court of Appeals and has represented the consumer’s perspective on numerous panels.

Leading on multiple fronts can be overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, Deputy Sistrunk carries out her duties with grace and determination. Her “we can get it done” personality is inspiring and motivating to OPC staff.

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

Formal Case No. 1130 – The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability, and Formal Case No. 1155 – Pepco’s Application for Approval of its Transportation Electrification Program.

R-PIV is a residential rate plan that features lower rates for home energy usage during off-peak hours and higher rates during on-peak hours. Electric vehicle customers on the R-PIV plan can see monthly savings if they can shift the majority of their home’s energy consumption to off-peak hours.

On March 29, OPC filed a Letter of Support for Pepco’s R-PIV Tariff. OPC rendered this support after reviewing documents Pepco provided and how these tariffs will assist the District reach its renewable goals

Consumer Complaint No. 9075254 – Danise v. Washington Gas Light

On April 5, OPC filed an Initial-Post Hearing Brief on behalf of the complainant, to argue that fees imposed by Washington Gas to install a service line is notauthorized under the company’s tariff.

Do you have feedback or an idea for an article that could be featured in an upcoming edition of the OPC Connection? We want to hear from you! Just drop our editorial team an email @ or tweet us @DCOPC.