The Washington Post

Cheh proposes requiring Pepco to bury power lines

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced a proposal Tuesday that would require Pepco to bury more power lines underground to try to avoid a repeat of the widespread power outages that hit the District 10 days ago.


Cheh’s proposal, which drew several co-sponsors, would create a commission to identify where in the city power lines could be buried. The installation of the power lines would be paid for through a 4 percent assessment on residents’ electricity bills.

“This isn’t the first time we have had a problem like this,” said Cheh, noting power disruptions during snowstorms in 2011 and 2010. “Pepco promised to do better, but more is needed.

Cheh said underground power lines would put them out of reach of the robust tree canopy in many District neighborhoods while avoiding debates about whether trees should be trimmed to avoid disruptions.

Representatives from the council, mayor’s office and Public Service Commission would make up the commission that would decide where power lines should be buried.

Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), whose committee has oversight over Pepco, is teaming up with Cheh to try to push the bill through the legislative process.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) also introduced a separate proposal Tuesday to try to force Pepco to install more lines. Evans’s proposal would require Pepco to come up with feasibility plan by the end of the year on how it plans to bury power lines in the city.

“I think we are long past time of study, we should bury power lines,” Evans said. “Most of the city who have above power ground lines lost power while most people who didn’t, didn’t lose power.”

Evans, chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, said Pepco estimates it would cost $5 billion to bury all the power lines in the city.

“It’s a $5 billion cost, but $5 billion is something we have dealt with in the past,” Evans said.

On Friday, the Committee on Public Services & Consumer Affairs will hold an oversight hearing on Pepco’s response to the storm in the District.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


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