The Washington Post

The politics of trees and power outages

If you are a Pepco customer and it is summer and a heat wave is upon us, you pay attention to stories about Pepco. I am a Pepco customer. It is summer. And I hear my thermometer is gonna top 100 degrees later this week.

Like thousands of other Pepco customers in Maryland, I suffered through long stretches of power outages last summer. I distinctly recall sleeping in my basements many nights, avoiding the heat above. (We lost power for long stretches in the winter too.)

Tree trimming in Bethesda (Susan Biddle/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

County officials seem to be backing them up, arguing that simply pruning trees isn’t going to solve Pepco’s reliability problems.

Council Vice President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) said: “I don’t believe that our citizens are standing in your way of achieving improvements in your system long overdue. And what I have resented about this conversation from the get-go is for a utility that so under-invested in its system for so long, and for our people to endure the kind of service we have endured, for you to say, ‘And now we need you to do more for us.’?”

The subtext to this story, of course, is the long-running battle between county officials and Pepco executives, who have traded barbs for months over extensive outages. Residents love their trees and they seem intent on not doing any favors for Pepco, whose officials argue that the trees need work because “we have an obligation to provide reliable service.”

Have you been approached by Pepco to cut down some trees on your property? What have you told the company? If you haven’t been approached, would you let Pepco trim your trees? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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