7-Year, Billion-Dollar Plan to Bury Major D.C. Power Lines

A seven-year, billion-dollar plan by the District and Pepco to protect homeowners from power outages by burying major power lines underground would add a few dollars to monthly bills.

Hundreds of trees fell and power lines snapped when 60-to-80 mph winds ripped through the region last June.

“My power was out and was out for the next five days,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said.

He accepted a task force's recommendation that 60 major lines be moved underground. The task force was convened after last summer’s derecho knocked out power to some Washington-area residents for a week or more.

He and Pepco officials announced the plan to limit damage from increasingly violent storms Wednesday.

"We're going to have more severe weather," Pepco CEO Joseph Rigby said. “We have a very unique opportunity. It's never lost on me that we get to serve the capital of the free world.”

After regulatory approvals from the Public Service Commission and D.C. Council, residential power rates could increase by $1.50 per month, initially, topping out at $3.25 per month by 2020, to help pay for the project, officials said.

D.C.'s utility consumer advocate praised the agreement but said she'd monitor it for any price jumps.

“It protects low-income consumers,” Sandra Mattavous-Frye said. “They will not see any increase on their bills.”

About 60 percent of the District already has buried power lines. Burying more would mean digging up city streets.

Follow Tom Sherwood on Twitter at @tomsherwood

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