Pepco Grilled About Derecho Outages in Montgomery County

Berliner: Outages are No. 1 quality-of-life issue

Pepco was on the hot seat Thursday in Montgomery County over the latest round of storm-related power outages.

“The lack of reliable electric power has become the No. 1 quality-of-life issue in our county,” Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said.

The council questioned the utility’s 238,000 outages resulting from the June 29 derecho storms.

The frequency and duration of power outages seriously threatens our health, welfare and economy,” Berliner said.

Pepco President Tom Graham and Maryland’s Public Service Commission attended the hearing to respond to concerns.

“I completely understand the frustration of the customers who have been out of service,” Graham said.

“What I’m hearing from Mr. Graham which makes me infuriated is he’s not listening to what everyone is telling him,” said Bethesda resident Emily Mintz, who lost power for days after the derecho. “He keeps saying, ‘Yes, it was a big storm; you shouldn’t be beating up on us; you can expect outages.’ Everybody understands that.”

“What happens next depends on what we find,” said Douglas Nazarian, of the Public Service Commission.

The PSC is waiting on an official report from Pepco due at the end of July before it can comment on the utility’s performance.

“The review will be thorough, it will be comprehensive, it will be penetrating and there will be follow-up,” Nazarian said.

For many Montgomery County residents, including State Sen. Brian Frosh, there’s no need to wait for the report.

“If you want to communicate effectively with Pepco, don’t give them a rate increase,” he said to a round of applause. “We’re not getting the service we deserve.”

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen recommended Thursday that Pepco not receive a 4 percent rate hike before making meaningful progress on reliability, the Associated Press reported. The deadline for the PSC to decide on the increase is Friday. Van Hollen noted that the June 29 storms caused double the number of outages for Dominion Power that Friday night but the same number of customers still without power that following Monday.

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