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D.C. Residents Protest Pepco Rate Hike Request

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Protestors picket outside the office of the D.C. Public Service Commission in Northwest D.C.
Elliott Francis
Protestors picket outside the office of the D.C. Public Service Commission in Northwest D.C.

A proposed electricity rate hike in the district by Pepco is troubling many in the District, including some elderly residents who are living on a fixed income. Dozens of residents gathered outside the office of the D.C. Public Service Commission Monday to rally against a proposed rate increase by Pepco.

Pepco officials want a $42.5 million hike in service distribution rates. That’s about a $5-6 per month jump in cost for the average D.C. resident. Utility officials filed proposals Monday for the increase with the public service commission. Residents like Shydee Evens came here to let the utility know that this rate hike is unacceptable.

"We’re letting them know that we’re not going to stand for this anymore," says Evens. "We’re not going to go for hikes in our bills and poor service."

Evens and other residents say they simply can't justify a rate hike for a company that they say received $817 million in tax refunds and earned $882 million in profits from 2008  to 2010.

Pepco President Thomas Graham says the hike is justified. "The standards of the District of Columbia have been met by Pepco," he says. "In order to meet new standards we have to make an additional investment in out infrastructure and that is what we’re doing now in seeking cost recovery."

The rate increase request has few fans among resident in the city, but some elderly people say they will be disportionately hurt by it. If the proposal is approved by the commission, many customers will probably do what they can to reconfigure their income, their bills or both to pay the expected 4 to 6 dollar a month jump in their electric bill. But for older residents living on a monthly pension, such as Joanne Featherson, that might not be an option. 

"If you are a social security recipient your rate of increase on your monthly income is not guaranteed," she says. "This is an additional fee that I have to subtract from my monthly income."

Featherson adds that she can't read in low light, so it's not just a matter of cutting back to save power. Graham says the utility is aware of the needs of those on a fixed income. 

"Our rate adjustment isn t focused on our seniors, and in the district we do have a program that helps them through the residential aid discount," he says. 

The commission expects to make a ruling on the proposal in the spring.

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