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Analysis: Utility Companies Face Criticism After D.C. Area Storm

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As the region continues to repair damages from last Friday's severe storm, local utilities are facing scrutiny from residents and regulators. Meanwhile, the Metrorail to Dulles project has cleared what could be the last major hurdle before construction. Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney provides some details on the issues. Following are highlights of his analysis.

On how the utilities companies did in handling the damage from last Friday's storm: "There was a lot of dissatisfaction with the utilities' performance, both over the extent of the outages and how long they lasted. In the utilities' defense, they had very little warning with the storm. Unlike last winter's storm, there was no storm or ice to block their trucks from getting around. The most criticized electric utility was Pepco, serving suburban Maryland and the District. It's always the biggest target because its pass record is always so poor. And so when it has problems again, it naturally comes under the most scrutiny. There are so many variables that it's difficult to make fair comparisons. Still numbers that came out suggest that Pepco was still the slowest among the utilities. At the same time, I was surprised at how much criticism there was of Virginia Dominion Power. Politicians there have typically sung Dominion's praises, and compared it favorably to Pepco. But this time I was hearing complaints that Dominion was slower than in the past."

On the possibility of burying power lines and whether we could see any action on this: "I think we hear a lot of talk, but very little action. Every time the power goes out, people get all exercised... there's always calls to bury all the power lines. If they're underground, then the trees won't knock them down. We heard it again this time from Mayor Gray, and from legislators. But it is just so expensive, that it's not realistic politically to do that in the District."

On whether Phase 2 of the Silver Line to Dulles project is finally in the clear and will move forward: "It sure looks like it. It was certainly a red-letter day this week, when it got approved in Loudoun. It basically means that the last political and financial obstacle has been overcome to finish the Silver Line to Dulles Airport and two stations beyond."

Listen to the full analysis here.

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