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Montgomery County Council's Berliner Addresses Pepco Rate Hike Request

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Power lines in Hillmeade, Md.
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Power lines in Hillmeade, Md.

Pepco has asked Maryland regulators for a rate increase  —one that would add about $7 to residential customers' monthly bill.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner says the utility company's latest move makes him feel like he's in the movie Groundhog Day. Just four months ago, Maryland's Public Service Commission rejected most of another Pepco rate hike request.

"This is not uncommon in the world of utility rate making," he says. "There's an expression that's called 'pancaking' where you file one rate increase on top of another rate increase, on top of another rate increase."

Pepco's response to Superstorm Sandy was well-regarded by most, even Berliner, but he's quick to add that doesn't mean Pepco should get the rate hike it's asking for.

"I would be surprised if the commission thinks that their performance to date justifies an increase in their return on equity," he says. "But that is why we have an independent commission, and I'm hopeful and guardedly confident that they will do the right thing."

Pepco says it wants the rate hike, which would amount to about $7 extra on each customer's monthly bill, because of all the system upgrades it has made in the past two years, which the utility says has led to fewer outages. Berliner does agree that Pepco has provided better service lately.

"But when you are on the bottom, there's only one way to go," he says.

The Public Service Commission is expected to make its decision next summer.

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