The OPC CONNECTION – September, 2016

A Note from Your People’s Counsel

Image: Sandra Mattavous-Frye People's Counsel

OPC is working daily to improve the quality of life of District of Columbia residents. A good way to see how our energy efficiency, community outreach and legal staff are advocating, educating and protecting utility consumers is to check out “Preparing Today for a Brighter Utility Tomorrow,” OPC’s 2015 Annual Report on the link below. It’s a comprehensive look at how the Office of the People’s Counsel is carrying out its mandate to serve DC residents in all eight wards.

We continue to expand our outreach throughout the city to make sure you have the latest information on utility issues that impact your quality of life. It is equally important to hear from you on issues that matter to you.

The November 8th presidential election is just two months away. Therefore, it’s important for all DC residents to pay close attention to the energy policies of all the candidates and to determine how those policies might impact your community, your pocketbook and the nation as a whole. I urge you to vote. 

Read OPC’s Annual Report Here

Did you know that natural gas is actually odorless? Washington Gas adds the foul-smelling odorant called mercaptan to alert consumers of natural gas leaks. Mercaptan has been described as having a rotten egg or sulfurous smell. Even if you think it may just be those deviled eggs you forgot to throw away after your Labor Day BBQ, if you smell this obnoxious odor, immediately leave the area and contact 911. It is better to be safe and take precaution than to risk bodily injury.

Do not attempt to find the source of the leak. Alert others in the area and do not do anything to create an ignition source such as light a match, turn on and off lighting switches, or start anything with a motor. Only contact 911 after you have reached a safe distance from the leak. You may also contact WGL’s Emergency Leak Line at 703-750-1400.

Other signs of a natural gas leak include:

  • A hissing or blowing sound
  • Fire appearing to burn close to the ground with no visible source
  • Dead vegetation around a pipeline
  • -Unexplained bubbling in a body of water

For more useful information, or to receive a helpful brochure on natural gas safety visit the Washington Gas website here.

WGL Customers to Get Refunds Due to 2014 OPC Complaint

The Public Service Commission has scheduled four community hearings to hear comments on Washington Gas Light Company’s $19.9 million rate increase request. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye strongly encourages consumers to participate in the hearings on September 20 and 21; and October 5 and 15, 2016. Click here for the times and locations.

OPC also wants WGL customers to know that in an unrelated proceeding, they are due $2.4 million in refunds, possibly beginning in December 2016. Two years ago, OPC filed a complaint against WGL questioning unauthorized and unlawful compensation practices by the company. On August 11, 2016, the PSC ordered WGL to make refunds to consumers as a result of OPC’s complaint.

OPC requested the Commission investigate allegations that WGL over-compensated Competitive Service Providers, who due to a WGL error, delivered more natural gas supplies than were needed during the 2008-2099 winter heating season. As a result of the unauthorized compensation, District ratepayers suffered because they ultimately cover the costs of over-payments through their rates.

WGL has proposed refunding customers $1.20 per month for a year, beginning in December. PSC approval of the plan is pending.

Every year the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), in conjunction with the Institute of Public Utilities, hosts a two-week intensive studies program in East Lansing, Michigan, held on the campus of Michigan State University. The annual training program is referred to as “Camp NARUC” and offers attendees intensive curriculum on utility regulation and the rate-making process. Industry experts were on hand to offer lectures on topics that ranged from cost of capital, rate of return, dynamic pricing and ethical oversight. 

OPC staff members on Michigan State Campus for Camp NARUC

Historically, the Office of the People’s Counsel has participated in Camp NARUC by sending employees to the training seminar each year. This year, OPC sent four employees to the first week of Camp NARUC with the expectation that next year they will continue training and attend the second week. Camp NARUC has been an invaluable resource to help OPC employees gain a greater grasp of current topics and trends at the epicenter of the utility industry.

OPC became an independent agency of the District of Columbia government on January 2, 1975. Over the years, the Office has accumulated a large and diverse collection of historic posters, artwork, and memorabilia. Now, OPC would like to give our readers the opportunity to admire the collection as much as OPC staff has for years.
This month: OPC’s 1994 Telecommunications Forum Banner.

What we love about it: The onetime state of the art (now vintage) Analog TV set complete with “bunny ear” antennas, VHS tape and the use of the term “Information Super Highway.”

What we can’t figure out: We get the VHS Tape, Desktop Computer, Telephone Receiver, and Television Set, but what is the image at the bottom center of the banner? Snake arcade game? A licorice whip? Share your thoughts on our social media!