It was incorrectly reported in yesterday's business and finance section that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals had criticized an appeal brought by D.C. People's Counsel Brian Lederer involving an electric rate case. The comments represented the opinion of Associate Judge Frank Q. Nebeker, not the whole court.
Criticizing the District of Columbia's consumer representative for "unwarranted delay and needless waste of resources," the D.C. Court of Appeals has refused to let crucial evidence be used in deciding whether to increase local electric rates.
The court of appeals ruled that two consultants' studies criticizing the rates increase asked by Potomac Electric Power Co. cannot be used because they were turned in too late.
The studies were done for D.C. People's Counsel Brian Lederer, the public official whose job is to represent consumers in cases before the D.C. Public Service Commission.
Several months ago the Public Service Commission refused to accept the two studies because they weren't completed by the deadline set by the commission. The PSC has been harshly criticized recently by imposing strict deadlines.
Contending the two studies were critical to his arguments against raising Pepco's rates, Lederer asked the PSC to reconsider, then went to court when the commissioners refused.
In a harshly worded decision, the appeals court not only rejected Lederer's appeal, but reprimanded him for even trying to appeal the case.
The court said the regulatory agency's decision to ignore the reports was "clearly nonappeable."
By appealing anyway, "People's Counsel needlessly caused the waste of the time and resources of this court, the commission, Pepco and the office of the people's counsel itself," the court said.
The appeal also cost Pepco's customers money, because both Lederer's expenses and those of Pepco in opposing him are passed on to utility customers in their monthly bill, the court noted.
Lederer yesterday defended both the consultants who prepared the reports and his appeal. "With $48 million at stake every year (if Pepco gets the rate increase it wants), we had to do everything we can," he said.
The consultants couldn't get their reports in on time because Pepco provided new information at the last minute, forcing them to redo much of their work, Lederer said.