The OPC CONNECTION – October, 2021
A Note from Your People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye
Continuing the Climate Conversation
I am pleased to report that many DC residents are talking about OPC’s October 16 community conversation: “The Price You Pay-Straight Talk About Climate Change & Environmental Injustice.” Hundreds of virtual viewers were among a wide range of interested parties who tuned in for the lively discussion on critical climate issues affecting all of us. Special thanks to Andy Shallal, Founder & CEO of Busboys and Poets for serving as moderator and hosting attendees at the restaurant’s Anacostia location. The titles of the panels with amazing speakers of local and national stature give you an idea of the topics covered: “DC: Hotter, Stormier, Costlier,” “Tips & Tools: Ideas to Make Every Neighborhood More Climate-Friendly,” and “In Pursuit of Equity: Race, Injustice, and Climate Change.”
We will share highlights and post the video when it is available. In the meantime, check out the Washington City Paper article on the event.
The next step is to continue the conversation. OPC’s goal is to educate and empower consumers, to understand efforts by the DC government and by other stakeholders to foster a cleaner, sustainable, and equitable environment.
We must ensure that the lack of consumer participation is not a barrier to achieving the District’s aggressive climate change goals. OPC will continue to do its part, but we cannot do it without you. Consumers must believe climate change is real and must recognize they play a vital role and obligation to participate in the process. Stay tuned!
Do you take access to water for granted? Can you imagine a day without water?
OPC’s Water Services Division (WSD) joined a national education campaign to highlight the critical role water plays in our lives, affordability, and access to clean water.
The 7 th annual Imagine a Day Without Watertook place on October 21 and was designed to raise awareness and educate Americans about the value of water. National activities included special events, resolutions, student contests, social media engagement.
WSD localized the campaign with a virtual webinar as part of its ACT NOW Series of consumer events and featured videos of men and women on the street interviews, asking them: “Can you imagine what a day without water would be like?”
“Water is essential, especially during difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic,” People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye told participants. “OPC works daily to advocate for affordable water rates and access to clean water for all.” She continued,” OPC’s goal is to ensure no DC consumer is forced to go without water.”
WSD Manager Stephen Dudek shared information about conservation, discount programs and bill payment assistance.
Dudek encouraged consumers to:
- Learn where water comes from and where it goes
- Consider the impact of extreme weather and climate conditions
- Attend DC Water and DC Council hearings to testify in favor of clean and affordable water and infrastructure improvements
If you have questions or concerns about your DC Water bill, call the OPC Water Services Division at (202) 727-3071 or file a complaint at opc-dc.gov.
Get to Know an OPC Partner
Sharon Cooke is a Supervisory Energy Program Specialist with the Department of Energy and Environment and has been with DOEE for 40 years. She supervises the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the DOEE Taylor Street intake center. Ms. Cooke is a native Washingtonian, a graduate of Howard University, and achieved the Certified Public Manager designation from George Washington University
Here’s a Q & A to help you get to know Ms. Cooke:
How did you meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue serving consumers?
DOEE enhanced the options for residents to apply for LIHEAP and the Utility Discount Program that provides assistance with electric, natural gas, and water bills. We have a new online application that is more user-friendly. Applying online at doee.dc.gov/Liheap is the fastest way to have an application processed. DOEE created a
, giving step-by-step instructions on our website. We also allow residents to mail, fax and e-mail applications since our intake centers are closed. It took residents a while to get used to not coming to our centers, but they have adjusted. I believe they now appreciate not having to come in with the coronavirus still present. Over the summer, DOEE also visited 35 senior buildings to collect applications.
How did you prepare for the lifting of the moratorium on utility disconnections on October 12?
DOEE staff revved up and got ready to process applications as fast as we received them. We encouraged renters to take advantage of Mayor Bowser’s STAY DC program, which provided federal funds to pay rent and utility bills. We also made homeowners aware of DOEE programs to save energy like the Weatherization Assistance Program and Solar for All.
How is the DOEE-OPC partnership paying off for our common constituents?
Our agencies working together truly benefits consumers. We strategize, find solutions for consumers, and make it happen!
Any new DOEE resources consumers should know about it?
In November, DOEE will launch the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program. “LIHWAP” will provide eligible households up to $5,000 to pay an outstanding water bill balance to avoid disconnection.
How do you de-stress?
I enjoy watching home and garden shows and put what I’ve learned to the test in my home by painting and planting. I cherish spending time with my 27-yearold son, who is tech savvy and tries to teach me how to use my smart phone and electronics. I’m an MSNBC and CNN politics addict. On the other hand, nothing like listening to some good R&B music by artists such as Luther Vandross, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Whitney Houston.
Even with the daily grind, I love my job and the satisfaction of helping our residents, especially the seniors. It gives me a sense of doing something good and worthwhile every day!
Lawyer On Board: Elizabeth Beltran
The OPC Connection is featuring a new attorney on the OPC team for a second month in a row. Assistant People’s Counsel Elizabeth Beltran recently joined OPC’s Litigation Services Division. She will focus on issues related to natural gas, AltaGas/Washington Gas Light merger commitments, procurement, and PROJECTpipes, the WGL pipeline replacement program.
Prior to stepping onto her career path in utility ligation, the Baltimore native had set out to study forensic anthropology. She subsequently began course work in the American Education System at UC Berkley. There, she also became intrigued with strategic litigation and how the NAACP argued the historic Brown vs Board of Educationcase. With her head in those studies, Elizabeth realized her calling to become an attorney and began pursuing a career in law. She earned her law degree from George Washington University.
Outside of lawyer work, Elizabeth enjoys bike riding, dancing, and hiking. She says she takes advantage of the fall season to get in some good hiking. But don’t expect to find her anywhere near a pumpkin patch!
Elizabeth is geared up and ready to grow with OPC in advocating for DC consumers.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1156: Pepco’s Application to Implement a Multiyear Rate Plan for Electric Distribution Service
On October 6, OPC filed with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals a Petition for Review of Order No. 20755, which gave Pepco authority to implement a multiyear rate plan and rate increase. On October 26, the PSC denied OPC’s petition for reconsideration of that PSC order. Now that the PSC order has been issued on the case record, OPC will update its appeal
Formal Case No. GD-2021-01-E: OPC’s Investigation into Pepco Construction Practices.
On October 14, OPC filed a Petition with the PSC requesting a Formal Investigation into the Construction Practices of Pepco. This petition was filed after OPC received complaints about construction projects from DC residents.
Formal Case No. RM29-2021-01-E, 15 DCMR Chapter 29: Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard
On October 14, OPC filed Comments regarding the Proposed Amendments to the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.
Social Media Chatter Catching Our Attention
The last two tweets reference the People’s Counsel’s comments at the Public Service Commission’s Clean Energy Summit. Go to about 37:00 on thislink to see her entire presentation.
OPC welcomes the opportunity to speak at your Advisory Neighborhood Commission, civic association or community group meeting virtually or in-person. We can give updates on utility issues, trends, and outline how we serve. Call (202) 727-3071 if your group would like our staff to stop by or “Zoom in.” Contact the organizations listed below if you would like links to attend the meetings we’ll be visiting virtually.
Missionary Baptist Minister’s Conference of DC
Date:Monday, November 1
Time:12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
East of the River Annual Meeting
Date:Wednesday, November 3
Time:5:30 PM – 8:00 PM
DCHA Board of Commissioners Meeting
Date:Wednesday, November 10
Time:1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Fairlawn Citizens Association Meeting
Date:Tuesday, November 16
Time:7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye (far left) with other participants in the Breast Cancer Awareness Month Walk and Fair hosted by the DC chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and The New Macedonia Baptist Church in Ward 7.
OPC staff volunteer at the Martha’s Table food distribution center in Ward 8.
OPC Consumer Outreach Specialist Jean Gross-Bethel speaks to senior residents at the Golden Rule Plaza Apartments in Ward 6.
OPC Water Services Division Community Outreach Specialist Rusheeda Boyd (in red) chats with a visitor at the Energy Efficiency Day fair hosted by the Department of Energy and Environment at the Southwest Public Library.
OPC staff members prepare to host the October 16 community conversation on climate change & environmental injustice.