The OPC CONNECTION – October, 2016
A Note from Your People’s Counsel
There has been immeasurable excitement about the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture since it opened on the National Mall on September 24. More than 30,000 people visited the museum during opening weekend, according to reports. No doubt, many Americans subscribe to the notion, “I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion,” as stated by the late John Hope Franklin, a renowned historian.
At OPC, we are guided by a 90-year history of fervent advocacy on behalf of District ratepayers. Congress first established the Office of the People’s Counsel in 1926 but eliminated it when the federal government was reorganized in 1952. Then in 1975, public outcry over rising rates brought OPC back into existence with the enactment of the Home Rule Act. OPC became an independent agency of the DC government on January 2nd of that year. Former Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Annice Wagner became the first People’s Counsel after an appointment by the late Mayor Walter E. Washington. I am honored to be the fifth People’s Counsel, following in the shoes of esteemed public servants. With almost a century of history under its belt, including delivering tangible and measurable benefits to consumers, OPC remains a critical force in shaping the District’s utility future.
Ever wonder where your electricity comes from? Here’s the scoop: Electricity delivery has three major components- generation, transmission and distribution. Electricity is generated at a facility or plant, usually using coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear energy to run generators. In addition, renewable energy resources such as wind solar and geothermal energy generation are beginning to be adopted. The electricity generated at plants around the country must be transmitted across state boundaries to reach consumers in cities and rural areas. This requires the large transmission towers that line many of the nation’s highways. Once electricity reaches key connection points near cities, it is distributed to individual consumers and businesses. These components are illustrated below:
In our region, electricity generation, some transmission and local distribution have traditionally been provided by Pepco. Starting in 2001, the generation and delivery of electricity was deregulated to permit competition among electric providers with the hope that reasonably priced and reliable electricity would be delivered to consumers. As a result, the DC Public Service Commission regulates only the local distribution portion of your electricity which includes the wires, transformers, and other equipment used to bring electricity to your home and business. These services are now provided by Pepco/Exelon. The generation and transmission of electricity is regulated by federal regulatory agencies. In Part II of this article we will discuss how the pricing for electricity generation, transmission and distribution is determined.
On September 16, OPC participated in Park(ing) Day 2016. The international event promotes the use of green space in urban areas by participating groups that sponsor a public park in a metered parking space. This year, 34 temporary pop-up parks were sponsored, making this the largest participation in the DC region ever! Some of the highlights of OPC’s park included giant sized Jenga and Kerplunk games, cozy chairs and benches, a sand box, and plenty of green plant life. DC residents stopped by the pop-up at 14th and U Streets NW at all times of the day to share their thoughts on energy efficiency and the environment with each other and OPC staff. Did you see us at our park? If so, Tweet us or share your pictures with us on Facebook!
Have you ever noticed the colored markings on your street and wondered what they represent? The colors are industry standard and identify specific utilities. Each utility (gas, electric, water, cable and sewer) has its own color code. The markings indicate that a utility is scheduling excavation in your neighborhood and which areas will be affected. Residents can contact the utility to get detailed information and to confirm when work is scheduled to be performed.
It is an almost guaranteed certainty that every District resident will encounter a utility worker at some point while living in the District. It is very important to be able to tell the difference between an actual utility employee, and someone that may be an impostor. All utility workers, whether they are from DC Water, Verizon, Washington Gas, or Pepco are required by the company to display identification badges at all times. Pepco specifically states that employees are expected to be asked by consumers for credentials during any interactions. Most technicians will be driving distinctively marked utility vans with the name of the company prominently displayed. Don’t be fooled by someone just because they have a hard hat and a clip board!
It is possible that some people may try to pose as a utility worker to gain access to a consumer’s home or to retrieve private information over the phone. It is very rare that a utility worker will arrive at your house unannounced. Before you allow anyone into your home or discuss your account information with anyone claiming to be a utility worker, be sure to ask for their identification information. You may also contact the utility before granting access to verify that a technician has been dispatched to your home. If you feel that you are being scammed by someone posing as a utility technician, contact 9-1-1 immediately.
What we love about it: The absolutely dominant performance of OPC over the Public Service Commission 14-11. Also,the accompanying photo showcasing some of DC’s greatest softball talent at the time.
What we should be embarrassed by, but aren’t: The prominent use of the classic mid-90’s battle cry “Whoomp! There it is!!!” complete with not one, not two, but three enthusiastic exclamation points!
“Whoomp, there it was!”
OPC is Stephen Marencic.
The OPC Connection is beginning a series of profiles of OPC employees who work daily to serve District utility consumers. We begin with Consumer Outreach Specialist Stephen E. Marencic Jr., who came on board in January. His background includes experience on a DC Council campaign and an internship in the office of DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Stephen says there was never a dull moment on Capitol Hill-he was there during the tragic Navy Yard shootings, the federal government shutdown and congressional office building security lockdowns.
The self-proclaimed “Shakespeare nut” also worked in the subscription office of the Kennedy Center for six years. While he’s drawn to a highbrow Hamlet production, he’s also a fan of “bad B horror movies.”
The Steelton, PA native is a graduate of Penn State University and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. Stephen and his wife, a DC native, have called the Petworth neighborhood home for 10 years. Nonetheless, he remains a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He also has a pretty wicked bobble-head collection.
Stephen says he enjoys connecting with District consumers to ensure that they get the reliable utility services they deserve. As a member of the OPC Connection production team, he believes it’s important to keep consumers informed about energy news.
The Energy Bar Association honors People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye with the 2016 State Regulatory Practitioner Award for innovation and superior advocacy for DC consumers
Children at the FBR Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington are proud of their creations. OPC’s Denise Blackson conducts energy saver workshops for kids at THEARC in Ward 8
OPC staff and consumers listen to an attendee at OPC’s workshop at the 9th Annual Tenant Summit sponsored by the Office of the Tenant Advocate at Gallaudet University
With Parkmont Middle School students, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye was a speaker at the STEM4US Festival during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference. Other speakers pictured: CBC Chairman/Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC), Director LaDoris Harris of US Dept. of Energy Office of Economic Impact and Diversity; and Commissioner Willie Phillips of the PSC