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Maryland PSC Looks To Dominion As Storm Response Model

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Downed limbs were one of the major causes of outages in the D.C. area from June's derecho.
Seth Liss
Downed limbs were one of the major causes of outages in the D.C. area from June's derecho.

The Maryland Public Service Commision conducted a legislative-style hearing on the widespread outages caused by the "Derecho" storm of June 29, seeking answers as to why it took so long for utilities to restore power.

The hearing started out with testimony from a public service commission engineer, making staffing recommendations for the utilities. He suggested they employ more botanists and foresters, as more than 70 percent of outages during the Derecho were caused by trees falling down on lines.

The commission has also expressed a tremendous interest in how staffing skilled workers could affect restoration efforts in the future.

"One thing that struck me, in your analysis, is that even though Pepco had more outages than BG&E, by 30,000 to 40,000, it looked like they had secured less personnel," said Dave Nazarian, the commission chair.

The commission also cited Dominion Power as an example. They had access to more than 3,000 internal employees in the immediate aftermath of the storm. That is almost double the staff that was available to Maryland utilities.

"It was a challenge to get the resources from out-of-state utilities and non-company workers," said BG&E spokesman Robert Gould. He says that the mutual assistance program they usually use to get extra crews was hampered by widespread damage across multiple states.

The Commission responded by recommending that Maryland's utilities hire more skilled full-time staff.

The June 29 storm caused more than 3 million outages in the Mid-Atlantic region alone, and impacted 10 states and the District. Some were left without power for more than a week.

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