Here is the testimony I delivered to the Public Service Commission at last night’s hearing in Rockville:
Testimony to the Public Service Commission
By Nancy Floreen, President of the Montgomery County Council
August 30, 2010
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Nancy Floreen, and I am President of the Montgomery County Council. Thank you for coming to Montgomery County tonight to hear our concerns. Thank you also for the significant work you have already done in this investigation. I especially appreciate last week’s order directing Pepco to produce a large range of documents and prepare for a consultant to make recommendations to the Commission.
I’m submitting along with my testimony copies of the e-mails and letters the County Council has received from residents and business owners about Pepco’s reliability and communications.
You will find common themes in these letters and I’m sure in tonight’s testimony.
You will see in the letters that many Montgomery County residents face numerous small-scale outages even when there is no severe weather. One woman told me if a squirrel sneezes in her back yard, her lights go out.
There has been a lot of talk about the tree canopy causing problems, but I have to say we have heard from many people whose lines are underground that they experience problems too.
These outages are more than just an inconvenience to families. They create dangerous conditions for vulnerable populations. And they disrupt business, which means everyone’s bottom line.
You will hear my colleagues address this all in more detail.
We understand that there are acts of god and nature that Pepco cannot control.
But what we do not understand is why Pepco’s promises to improve their communication system after Hurricane Isabel were apparently never implemented.
What we do not understand is how the Public Service Commission could have allowed Pepco to fall into the bottom quartile for frequency of outages in good weather.
And what we do not understand is what standards you are holding Pepco to justify their rates.
We, as public servants, are obligated to fulfill our mission of serving the public to the fullest.
You are required, under the law, to “promote the adequate, economical, and efficient delivery of utility services.”
I ask that you take aggressive action to do that in this proceeding, because, in the view of Montgomery County residents, Pepco has unquestionably failed to meet these standards.
I ask you to set clear accountability measures, order Pepco to adhere to them, and order that Pepco be accountable to you for achieving them.
I appreciate voluntary standards, and Pepco’s own internal plans and statement of willingness to cooperate, but we want the Public Service Commission to be in charge of ensuring that Pepco meet its goals, not Pepco.
I understand that the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has come up with standards that many power companies are already using. They measure and provide a basis for evaluating:
the frequency of power interruptions;
the duration of interruptions;
and the percentage of customers who experience multiple interruptions.
I’m not an expert, but this seems to me to be a good place to start. I’d like to know how Pepco measures up compared with utility companies nationwide.
Then I would like to see these measures used as a part of considerations for future rate increases and Return on Investment levels requested by Pepco.
As a diverse and bustling community of nearly one million people, we absolutely must have reliable public utilities. I urge you to complete this investigation thoroughly and then to take aggressive and enforceable steps to make sure the lights stay on in Montgomery County.