Support for greater regulation of Pepco
Testimony to Montgomery County Council, May 2012
by Darian Unger, Silver Spring resident
My name is Darian Unger. I am a resident of Silver Spring, the Chair of the District 20 Democratic Caucus, the former chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, and a Montgomery County volunteer firefighter, but I am speaking tonight simply on my own behalf and for many of my friends neighbors in East Silver Spring.
We support additional restrictions on Pepco because we’ve had the misfortune of dealing with Pepco as they decimated trees in our neighborhood with no checks or balances. Pepco has chopped down many trees, changed the character of our neighborhood, unnecessarily killed off greenery, and forced us to pay higher electric bills and waste more energy because our roofs are no longer shaded in the summer. Pepco did this so that it could supposedly decrease the company’s own unreliability – or at least be able to claim that they’re doing something about their abysmal track record – even though their poor service has almost nothing to do with trees.
A 2010 study by the Washington Post already debunked Pepco’s false claims that their poor service is due to tree canopies. It is not. Pepco’s failures and deficient services are due to its management’s poor decisionmaking and refusal to make necessary upgrades to transformers and infrastructure.
So it is disingenuous that Pepco now claims that they are under fire for supposedly “doing something,“ while what they are actually doing is precisely the wrong thing. And they do it with impunity. Unless you approve this additional regulation, there will be nobody able to correct them when Pepco management makes mistake after mistake without being held accountable. Instead they spend money on advertisements, PR campaigns, and tree cutting to make themselves look better.
There’s an old story about a person who killed both his parents, and then threw himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he was an orphan. That is exactly Pepco’s position. It is hypocrisy when the not-so-poor company claims to be caught between a rock and a hard place. They claim that the wretched people complain about poor service and blackouts, but then have the nerve to complain when they chop down trees. Whatever is poor little Pepco to do?
As a business school professor at Howard University, I teach about what monopolies really mean for business. We teach why they are profitable, why they are usually illegal, and why they are sometimes acceptable if appropriately regulated. I would suggest that if a highly profitable monopoly offers blackouts, treeless neighborhoods, and excuses instead of reliable service – then it should either be more tightly regulated or else have its monopoly rights stripped. Please force Pepco to worth with communities instead of fighting against them.
Pepco offers a false choice between trees or electricity. This bill enables them to do what they sometimes legitimately need to do, but with limitations to protect both residents’ rights and the environment.