Pepco and Washington Gas Light Co. filed legal briefs yesterday strongly opposing the application of the President's wage-price guidelines to electric and gas rate increases pending in the District of Columbia.
"Pepco submits that if the voluntary wage-price guidelines were to be arbitrarily applied to Pepco's proposed rates in such a way as to prevent its requested increase from becoming effective, the result would simply be an unconstitutional accelerated . . ." said the company's brief submitted to the D.C. Public Service Commission.
WGL's brief argued that the guidelines "are not legally applicable" to decisions on the issues in public untility rate cases because the utilities already are regulated by government commissions that seek to hold the line as much as possible on rate increaes.
WGL cited a 1944 Supreme Court decision giving it a wartime price increase. "The long and short of it is that the (Supreme Court) gave its imprimatur to . . . a rate increae at a time when there was a 'moral' obligation to keep a rein on inflation during wartime," the brief argued.
Pepco has requested a $45 million, 16 percent rate increase in the District of Columbia and WGL has asked for an $11 million, 8.6 percent increase for D.C. The commission asked both companies to file opinions on the effect on their requests of the President's program of voluntary overall limits of 7 percent for wage increases and 5.75 percent for price increases that went into effect late October.
Virginia Electric and Power Co., which has a 25 percent rate increase request pending decision, is waiting to issue its opinion on price guidelines until the U.S. Council on Wage and Price Stability issues more precise information on the impact of the guidelines on utility company rate increases, a Vepco spokesman said.
Vepco President Stanley Ragone said recently that federal officials have stated that "energy companies and utilities like Vepco merit special consideration if the nation's goal of energy-independence is to be met," -- a sentiment with which Ragone said he agrees.
"We expect utility companies to adhere to the standards," said John Campbell, a spokesman for the council, which monitors compliance with the guidelines. "We just flatly say that. But the responsibility lies with the (local) regulatory agencies."
Campbell said a special council task force is studying precisely how to deal with utility companies and will issue a report within the next few days.
A brief filed with the District commission yesterday by Brian Lederer, the D.C. People's Counsel who represents consumers in utility rate cases, said that Pepco's rate increase request is "far in exess of the guidelines."
"If there is any message that the president's anti-inflation program should bring to this commission, it is that this is not the time to be providing Pepco with any more cash then is obsolutely necessary for the maintenance of its current and future operations," the brief said.