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At D.C. Hearing, Groups Argue Over Proposed Pepco-Exelon Merger

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Exelon has purchased Pepco, but regulators in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have to sign off on the merger.
WAMU/Markette Smith
Exelon has purchased Pepco, but regulators in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have to sign off on the merger.

D.C.'s Public Service Commission is trying to determine whether the city's electric utility, Pepco, should be allowed to merge with national energy giant Exelon. And while there's plenty of opposition to the merger, the city's business community is speaking out in support of it.

Opponents of the merger have coalesced into a new group calling itself Power D.C.

The organization held a launch party just before the first public hearing on Wednesday night. Rabbi Fred Sherlinder Dobb of Interfaith Power & Light was one of several speakers to deliver variations on the same message: If Exelon takes over the grid in D.C., progress towards transforming the grid to be more friendly to renewable, distributed forms of energy, such as neighborhood solar, is likely to be stymied.

"Pepco is allowing it to happen, and broadly supportive as utilities go. Exelon is not. It's really that simple," he said.

The hearing itself, which was packed, lasted long into the night, with the majority of witnesses, like ANC commissioner Gayle Baron Black, testified against the merger.

"We were concerned because there's not a clear showing that this merger will be in the public's interest," she said.

But proponents of the merger include several representatives of the local business community, including D.C. Chamber of Commerce president Harry Wingo and Greater Washington Board of Trade president and CEO Jim Dinegar, who both say the merger would boost the energy capabilities of the region.

Dinegar says all the opposition to the deal is puzzling — he says D.C. residents have long been clamoring for Pepco to deliver better service, and now Exelon is providing a clear path to that goal.

"If people don't like Pepco and they've been screaming and complaining about Pepco for years, here comes a remarkable solution to even vault us to the next level of reliability. I actually just don't get it. It makes no sense," he says.

There are three more public hearings in D.C. scheduled on the proposed deal: on January 6, January 12, and January 20. Maryland and Delaware's public service commissions also have to approve the merger for the deal to be completed.

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