The OPC CONNECTION – October 2017


A Note from Your People’s Counsel

What’s PJM? No, it doesn’t stand for peanut butter, jelly and mayonnaise. Nor are they the initials for new designer pajamas. PJM stands for Pennsylvania- Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, founded in 1927 initially to serve electric utilities in the three states. PJM is an independent regional transmission operator that is not under the jurisdiction of the DC Public Service Commission.

Why do we—and why should you—care about PJM? It’s because PJM Interconnection coordinates the movement of electricity over transmission lines in the District of Columbia and 13 surrounding states. For example, when there is a need for more electricity to avert power outages during an infamous DC summer heat wave, PJM ensures that enough electricity is generated and delivered to where it’s needed most.

PJM helps to keep the lights on for 65 million people, administers a competitive wholesale electricity market, and plans regional transmission expansion improvements to maintain grid reliability and relieve congestion.

OPC is an active member of PJM and is a part of a group that represents electric utility customers, who are referred to as “end users.” OPC staff regularly participate in meetings with PJM officials and other members on a range of issues, from ensuring that wholesale prices remain as low as possible to making the electric grid more accessible for renewable energy. For example, OPC recently was invited to participate in a survey conducted by PJM on how future transmission projects should be selected. The construction of new transmission projects and their costs are important to ratepayers because it ultimately impacts your pocketbook.

Responding to the survey, OPC urged PJM to make its transmission selection process more open and transparent and to include regular reviews of existing projects to ensure that they are meeting the needs of District consumers. Importantly, OPC believes that cost containment provisions should be included in every new transmission project so that ratepayers know the costs up front and are not asked to pay more when developers run into difficulties building a project.

OPC will continue to work with PJM to ensure that transmission solutions deliver reliable, cost-efficient electricity to DC consumers.

People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye presented convincing testimony in support of “The Community Residential Facilities Third-Party Notice of Utility Disconnection Requirement Act” at a Council committee hearing on October 2, 2017. The bill is designed to protect senior residents and other vulnerable communities from utility disconnections that may put them in life-threatening situations. OPC provided technical assistance to Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon T. Todd in drafting language for the legislation before he introduced it.

If approved by the Council, the bill would require utility companies to give 30-days’ notice to agencies that manage 150 assisted living, community residence and nursing home facilities in the District. People living in these facilities are not the customers of record on utility accounts. Therefore, bills, payments, and disconnection notices are sent directly to operators of the homes. Advance notification, however, would provide an extra layer of protection for residents who must have uninterrupted power; and would provide caregivers time to find alternative health care if needed.

In her testimony, the People’s Counsel called the legislation “a straightforward solution to a problem that unfortunately has posed a health and well-being threat to our most vulnerable consumers.” Committee consideration of the bill is expected by the end of the year, and if approved, would be up for a vote by the full Council early next year.

DC Government has made it easy for residents to turn their food and lawn waste into valuable compost. What is compost? To put it bluntly, dead decaying organic material such as grass clippings, coffee grinds, and vegetable scraps. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 13 percent of waste is food-based, totaling about 1.5 pounds of waste per person per day in the United States.

Now, these materials, which may have previously just been thrown into the trash bin are now being collected and used to make fertilizer.

Residents can collect these scraps and take them to participating farmers market locations throughout the city. Click here to find a location and learn more information on how to participate.

Did you know that your home may be infested with income-sucking “energy vampires?” Energy vampires are electronics that continue to draw power even while turned off. These ghoulish devices include cell phone or laptop chargers, cable boxes, video game consoles and anything that may have a digital clock or light.

So how can you rid your home of these foul beasts without going back to the dark ages? Simply, by using power strips that can automatically cut the power off to multiple devices when not in use. Also, consider upgrading your old appliances to Energy Star certified ones that save energy. Finally, unplug large items that you rarely use instead of keeping them attached and leeching electricity. Do you really need that second TV and old VHS player with the copy of Hocus Pocus plugged in constantly?

Visit OPC’s website to learn more energy saving tips!

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases before the PSC:

Formal Case No.1142 – The Merger of AltaGas & Washington Gas Holdings, Inc.

In April 2017, the PSC opened a proceeding to review the proposed merger of the two companies as to whether the merger would be in the public interest.

  • On September 29, 2017, OPC filed its Direct Testimony with the Commission in opposition to the proposed merger. The evidentiary hearing in this matter is set for December.
  • On October 24, 2017, OPC sent a letter to the Commission requesting the PSC to schedule two community hearings for the public to comment before the start of the evidentiary hearing and two sometime in January, afterwards.

Formal Case No. 1145 – In the Matter of Applications for Approval of Biennial Underground Infrastructure Improvement Projects Plans and Financing Orders.

  • On September 13, 2017, OPC filed Comments regarding the Joint Application of Pepco and the DDOT for Approval of the Biennial Underground Infrastructure Improvement Projects Plan and Financing Order Application.

This month’s employee spotlight is Paralegal Specialist Tamika Dodson.

Tamika began her career with OPC in 2004. In the position of office assistant, she supported staff in both the Consumer Services and Litigation Services Divisions. As the agency expanded over the years, so did Tamika’s responsibilities, including providing paralegal support.

In an effort to gain more experience in line with her work with OPC’s legal team, Tamika obtained a Paralegal Certification Degree from the Paralegal Institute of Washington, D.C. She is now pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies at the University of Maryland University College and hopes to go to law school upon graduating from UMUC.

“I love the mission of this agency and its efforts to give a voice to consumers who often feel like they are going unheard when dealing with the utility companies,” Tamika says. “Moreover, I appreciate OPC’s commitment to helping me to develop and achieve my educational and career goals.” When she is not busy pursuing her studies, helping OPC attorneys delve into cases, or raising her four children with her husband, you can find Tamika traveling, making custom jewelry or developing holistic homemade spa and cosmetic products.

With all that she has going on for her, OPC is lucky to have someone onboard who is equipped with more than a decade of institutional knowledge, and is as driven and self-motivated as Tamika.

OPC will be out at the following events:

Costume Carnival
2730 MLK Jr. Ave SE (Gateway Pavilion)
Tues., October 31st

ANC 8C Meeting
2730 MLK Jr. Ave. (RISE Center)
Wed., November 1 st

ANC 8A Meeting
1800 MLK Jr. Ave. (DHCD)
Tue., November 7 th

ANC 2C Meeting
1350 Penn Ave. NW
Mon., November 13th

Washington, DC Career Fair
550 C Street SW (Holiday Inn)
Wed., November 15 th

ANC 2A Meeting
20201 G Street, NW George Washington University Funger Hall
Wed., November 15 th