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Pepco Raked Over Coals Even As Rate Hikes Considered

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In the District, there was some emotional testimony at a public hearing on Pepco's reliability following a June 29 storm that left more than 2 million in the area without electricity.

Pepco called to task

An estimated 66,000 Pepco customers lost power in the District alone. Some, like Mary Young, a senior citizen who lives in a high-rise apartment building, were in the dark for five days or more. "It was very uncomfortable — there was no heat, there was very little light," she said.

Young was one of several elderly residents who testified at today's hearing.

"I had knee replacement surgery a year ago and the other knee is still to be done and they re both still rather painful," said Young. "And when the power went out, of course, we had no elevator service and so the few trips I made I had to go up seven flights of stairs."

With Pepco's regional president Thomas Graham sitting quietly through her emotional testimony, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser fired off at the utility. "We have an infrastructure that is failing us," said Bowser.

Pepco says over the past two years, its restoration and improvement efforts has resulted in a 36 percent reduction in outages.

Rate hike ruling next week

Meanwhile, the Maryland Public Service Commission is expected to rule at any point in the next week on Pepco's request for a rate hike.

The decision was supposed to come today, but Pepco asked for a delay of a week, because the utility says it is still focused on the aftermath of last month's storm. That means the decision on the 4 percent rate hike for customers could come anytime between now and next Friday. 

Maryland senator Jim Rosapepe of Prince George's County says that whenever the decision comes out, Pepco should get a no. "It's ridiculous to cut off the power and raise the rates. Only in Pepcoland does that make any sense at all."

Appearing on WAMU's Politics Hour, Rosapepe also said the public service commission should fine PEPCO and BG&E $100 million each for the lengthy power outages following last month's storm, saying such large fines are the only way to get the utilities to perform better.

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