The OPC CONNECTION - February 2020

A Note from ​​Your People's Counsel

Sandra Mattavous-Frye

Don’t Miss the Money!

You may be aware that the Office of the People’s Counsel has been advocating for DC Water consumers since April of 2019 when a new law authorized OPC to directly address water ratepayers’ concerns. Our outreach also includes educating consumers about programs that provide funding relief for increasing water and sewer rates. We want to make sure financial assistance does not go untouched as potential applicants struggle to pay their bills.

That’s why OPC wants you to know that the District continues to encourage you to seek help to pay the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC). The CRIAC relief fund provides low-to moderate income families, faith-based institutions and other nonprofits with financial support to ease the burden of higher bills resulting from the federally-mandated Clean Rivers program.

CRIAC rates have increased dramatically since DC Water instituted the program in 2009 to fund the $2.7 billion project to reduce raw sewage and stormwater runoff into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek.

It is vital that eligible consumers apply for assistance to lower their bills. So far, participation from residential households has not been brisk, nonprofit applicants are even slower coming in. OPC urges consumers to see if they are eligible for funding because the money may shrink, while the costs for CRIAC will increase.

The District Department of Energy and Environment administers the CRIAC relief program. Call 311 to get more information or schedule an appointment; or go to DOEE’s website.

OPC’s Water Services Division also is ready and able to help water consumers navigate the process.

OPC recently earned a key victory for consumers that will hold Pepco to an agreement it made to return $137.5 million to its ratepayers. In 2018, Pepco entered into a settlement agreement with OPC which resulted in a $24 million rate decrease. Among the reasons for the cut was that Pepco had agreed to return to customers, money the utility had previously collected from them in rates to meet its corporate tax obligations. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced the federal corporate tax rate, including Pepco’s, as of 2018. Because Pepco’s previous rates were based on tax income at the pre-2018 higher corporate tax rate, Pepco was holding excess deferred income tax money it needed to return to ratepayers.

As part of the 2018 settlement, Pepco agreed to return $137.5 million in rates over 10 years. That agreement was accepted by the Public Service Commission and became part of Pepco’s ongoing obligations to its customers. However, when Pepco filed its most recent application requesting a $160 million rate hike, the utility reduced the amount going back to consumers in future rates to $109.2 million, inconsistent with the settlement commitment, without explanation.

Fortunately, OPC discovered that Pepco had buried the 2018 tax-related cut in its latest 2,200-page rate application. The discrepancy prompted the Office to file a motion with the Commission seeking to hold Pepco to its promise. Agreeing with OPC, the Commission issued an order on February 5, directing Pepco to correct its rate case application.

OPC zealously advocates to hold all utilities to their commitments to ratepayers. And we carefully review all rate case applications no matter how many pages. Whatever rate the Commission ultimately authorizes in the pending rate case, you can rest assured ratepayers will get all the money they were promised.

Coming to a radio near you:

“OPC Radio Connect.” Stay tuned for news about its debut on DC Radio, WHUR 96.3 HD4 and your favorite podcast apps.

Got Sewage Home Insurance?

A sewage backup in your home or commercial property can be devastating. Exposure is toxic to humans and equally dangerous to pets. Untreated, it becomes worse. Consider contaminants, chemicals, pesticides, fungi and bacteria that can cause illness, disease and death. Immediate professional attention is required.

Experts say backups are often caused by clogged sewer lines, structural defects, broken or collapsed sewage pipes, leaking pipes, wet weather and flooding, pipes damaged by tree roots and even construction & repair.

If you have a water emergency or a sewer backup, immediately report it to DC Water's Water and Sewer Emergency Line at (202) 612-3400. If DC Water determines the main sewer is clear, you are required to hire a registered master plumber to clear the sewer "lateral" line servicing your property at your own expense.

A certified plumber must also file a report with DC Water if the blockage is in the public portion of the sewer line, according to the water authority. DC Water must be called if the public portion of the sewer line cannot be unclogged.

Cleanup and damages are most often the responsibility of the property owner. DC Water generally does not pay for cleanup costs or damages that result from sewer backups.

f you have additional information to indicate DC Water may be responsible, call (202) 787-2052 or file a claim.

DC’s Department of Insurance and Banking states that if sewer backup coverage is added to your homeowner’s policy, your losses may be covered if the water damage was caused by sewer lines backing up through your home’s drain pipes. Contact DISB at (202) 727-8000; TTY: 711 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also check out: Five Reminders About Insurance Coverage: Things you need to know.

Zion Baptist Church + ThinkBox = Energy Efficiency

OPC’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Section partners with various entities to help houses of worship and nonprofits to upgrade their facilities to save energy and lower utility and other expenses. For example, OPC partnered with ThinkBox on a project with Zion Baptist Church in Northwest Washington that’s expected to save Zion $3.6 million over 25 years.

ThinkBox specializes in Sustainability as a Service® – an innovative approach that empowers nonprofits, businesses and governments to save money, reduce their environmental impact, and provide benefits to local communities. ThinkBox develops and executes sustainable projects that focus on fixing aging infrastructure.

Zion Baptist Church has been serving the community since 1864. At its current location near Rock Creek Park since 1962, the church was damaged when a tree fell on it during a bad storm. Decisions on how best to move ahead were critical and the advice on implementing sustainable strategies from OPC Outreach Specialist Pamela Nelson and ThinkBox experts was valuable.

Seeking to reduce operating and capital expenses, and have a positive impact on the environment, Zion worked with ThinkBox to develop a project concept and financing plan to cover a number of energy efficiency and water conservation measures, including new HVAC, lighting, hot water boiler, and windows. Greenworks Lending, the largest provider of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing in the country, was selected as a partner.

“The project provided an amazing opportunity to realize a myriad of energy efficiencies and energy savings that will ensure that our church’s infrastructure will be sustainable for our current membership and future generations, " agreed Rev. Dr. Keith W. Byrd, Senior Pastor and David J. Saunders, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

This article was contributed by Daron F. Coates and R. Paul Orentas, CoFounders of the ThinkBox Group.

Meet Thaddeus Johnson

Sir Richard Branson, world renowned British investor, once spoke about his business development model by stating that all employers should “train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”

At OPC, this philosophy permeates throughout the agency with many staff advancing their careers over the years by adopting new roles and responsibilities to expand their skill set. Assistant People’s Counsel Thaddeus Johnson is one example.

Thaddeus came to OPC in 2013, right after graduating from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Earlier, he received a bachelor’s degree in television production from American InterContinental University in Atlanta, GA; and an associate degree in business management from Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC. His first position at OPC was executive assistant to People’s Counsel, Sandra Mattavous-Frye. It subsequently became apparent that Thaddeus’ work product had him prepared for a different role at OPC. Ultimately, Thaddeus was promoted to Assistant People’s Counsel as a staff attorney.

Thaddeus serves as the liaison or bridge between OPC’s Consumer Services and Litigation Services Divisions. He and colleagues in both divisions collaborate to resolve consumers' complaints about utility service.

Thaddeus was born in Harlem, New York but grew up in James Island, South Carolina. In his spare time, he enjoys being in the great outdoors. Indoors, Thaddeus tries his hand at creative writing and cooking. He claims okra soup as one of his specialties

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

General Docket-2019-04-M: The Implementation of the 2019 Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act Compliance Requirements

On January 13, OPC filed initial comments. The Office submits thatit will continue to examine and consider the best approaches the Commission should take to ensure compliance with the Act, and further the District's goals.

Formal Case No. 1144: Pepco’s Formal Notice of Construction of the Capital Grid Project.

On January 21, OPC filed an Application in Support of Reconsideration of Order No. 20274 from the PSC. OPC argues the PSC erroneously dismissed, without adequate justification, the detailed demonstrations made by OPC and the DOEE which show cost-effective alternatives to Pepco's proposal.

Formal Case No. 1156: The Application of the Potomac Electric Power Company Authority to Implement a Multiyear Rate Plan for Electric Distribution Service in the District of Columbia

On January 24, OPC filed an Unopposed Motion for Leave to Conduct Deposition of a Pepco witness.

Formal Case No. 1130: The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for increased Sustainability.

On February 7, OPC requested appointment to the Pilot Projects Governance Board, as OPC has actively participated in each of the MEDSIS working groups and actively participated in the formation of recommendations put before the Commission for review.

DC Housing Authority Resident Leadership Academy
Location:1133 North Capitol Street NE
Date:Friday, Feb 28
Time:10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Lamond Riggs Citizen Association Meeting LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
Location:501 Riggs Road NE
Date:Monday, March 2
Time:7:00 PM

DC Housing Authority Commissioners Meeting
Location:1133 North Capitol Street NE
Date:Wednesday March 11
Time:1:00 PM - 4:30 PM

ANC 4C Meeting
Location:Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Avenue NW
Date:Wednesday, March 11
Time:6:30 PM