Letter to Maryland PSC calls for study into Pepco, BGE

Photo: Rebecca Cooper

The leaders of seven of Maryland's largest jurisdictions are calling on the Maryland Public Service Commission to make several changes to the ways power companies in the Old Line State operate and manage emergencies.

In a sharply-worded letter to PSC Chairman Douglas Nazarian obtained by ABC 7 News, the county executives from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, along with the mayor of Baltimore, say that it's time for the state to work to make sure residents are not disabled by any single weather event.

"Devastating storms are impossible to predict, but every effort must be made to improve restoration efforts," the letter from Maryland's "Big 7" says.

The letter comes on the heels of the June 29 derecho that knocked out power to millions of people across the greater Mid-Atlantic, including hundreds of thousands of Pepco and BGE customers in Maryland. Pepco has specifically come under fire yet again for their response, which left some residents in the dark for more than a week.

Roberta Hoffman is one of those residents. Her home in Silver Spring's Woodside Park neighborhood had no power for seven days.

Hoffman said, "It's back on, but the neighborhood is still far from back to normal..."

Silver Spring resident Jennifer Pasenelli added, "We've come to expect a bad response, and we all just brace ourselves for it."

In the letter, the leaders specifically address three major issues with the response from power companies, including disclosure of outage locations, the prevention of future outages and staffing levels.

In the first case, the PSC is called upon to force the state's utilities to disclose exactly which buildings were without power, saying that the companies refused to disclose that data. They also want the utilities to list more detailed information about outages on their websites.

"If they had provided street-level information, it would have greatly assisted government efforts to provide support in these areas," the letter says.

The topic of burying power lines in areas that are most susceptible to being damaged or knocked out during storms was also raised. The letter asks Nazarian to undertake a study that would identify areas in service areas that would benefit the most from buried lines.

This request comes on the heels of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's call to Pepco to explore the burial of power lines inside the District of Columbia.

"The condition of the region's power grid is too fragile and too important to delay this project," the letter says.

Meanwhile, despite the presence and help of a litany of mutual aid companies who came to the area to help restore power as quickly as possible, local leaders want utilities to reexamine mandatory staffing levels and see if they're up to par with what companies need to restore power rapidly.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett explained, "They're going at a pace now that is unacceptable for us, they need to do that at a faster pace."

The letter was signed by John Leopold, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Kevin Kamenetz, David Craig, Ken Ulmann, Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker.