The county executives of Maryland’s seven largest counties, including Montgomery and Prince George's, issued a letter to demand changes from the area’s power companies after the June 29 storm that left some 443,000 residents without electricity in record heat.
In a letter to Douglas Nazarian, chairman of Maryland’s Public Service Commission, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, as well as four other county executives and the mayor of Baltimore City, told the PSC that it is time for power companies to evaluate changes.
“As elected leaders of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions, we stand ready to work together to make sure major metropolitan areas are not disabled by a single weather event, whether it involves snow, rain, ice or wind,” the executives wrote.
The letter also proposes discussion of underground wire placement, as well as examination of Pepco and BGE's staffing levels and quality of their above-ground equipment.
Due to the heat wave that followed the storm, many counties and jurisdictions attempted to assist residents still without power but were unable to do so because power companies refused to provide specific addresses with outages, the letter says.
The recent death of an elderly Prince George’s County man brought the storm death toll in Maryland up to 19 on Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Officials say in the letter that street-level information, which utility companies would not disclose, would have provided critical help in their efforts to fulfill public safety responsibilities.
“Utility companies can and should provide detailed outage information to local governments,” they wrote.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner recently said in a statement that Pepco’s performance following the storm was unacceptable, citing the lengths of the outages, the “appalling communications” and data discrepancies.
The morning of June 30, 210,000 of the 305,000 Montgomery County Pepco customers and nearly 200,000 residents of Prince George's County reportedly had no power.
Two days after the storm hit, 188,824 residents -- nearly 61 percent of the county – were without power and about 68,000 residents were still without electricity after four days, according to Pepco.
Pepco data showed that in Prince George’s County, 92,155 residents – about 42 percent – were without power by Sunday and 17,000 still had no power four days after the storm.
Recent reports of Pepco rate increases have also contributed to customers’ feeling of discontent with the company.
The Washington Post reported that Pepco has proposed a 4 percent rate hike that could see Maryland customers paying up to $5.50 more on their bill. The PSC has not yet made a decision regarding the increase.
Leggett said in a press conference that he thinks the PSC should consider storm response in their decision.
“I know that you must have clear evidence based on performance and that is judged on results in a crisis situation,” he said.
According to The Washington Post, Berliner said he thinks Pepco has requested that the PSC wait on the decision in attempt to put some distance between its decision and customers' anger.
“I think they feel the timing of this rate increase request is particularly unfortunate given the criticism of their work,” he told The Post.
In addition, 9 News Now reported that Pepco and BGE are able to charge more on their customers’ next bills due to the money they lost when they couldn’t charge customers during the storm.
“It’s the law,” Pepco spokesperson Bob Hainey told 9 News Now. “It’s called bill stabilization.”
Maryland People’s Chief Paula Carmody told 9 News Now that the utility companies can only collect compensation for the first 24 hours of the outage, which could amount to a charge of less than a dollar for the average customer.