Judi Jones is a commissioner with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B. Sherice Muhammad is a commissioner with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7D.
This month, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced that she had reached an agreement clearing the way for Chicago-based energy giant Exelon to buy Pepco. This was extremely disappointing to the thousands of D.C. residents, half the D.C. Council and more than half of the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) who have worked tirelessly to help the mayor understand that Exelon is wrong for the District.
Exelon’s bid to buy Pepco was unanimously rejected in August by the D.C. Public Service Commission as not in the best interests of the ratepayers. Unfortunately, the settlement with the mayor may allow the merger to go forward largely on Exelon’s terms.
As ANC chairs, we represent voters and small businesses. We can no longer stand by as the mayor throws her lot in with Exelon. The mayor should not have struck a deal with Exelon; now that deal should be rejected by the District’s regulators.
While the mayor’s deal includes a small increase in customer bill offsets and a pledge to hire about 100 local workers, the specifics of the deal reveal that rates may increase in 2019 and jobs may be lost starting as soon as 2018.
The funds Exelon has offered to the District won’t be available to small businesses or commercial customers and will mostly offset an immediate rate increase of up to $25.6 million once Exelon takes over Pepco. That’s not exactly a boon to (especially) low-income residents. The mayor’s deal also gives Exelon the right to raise rates again starting in April 2019 and charge District ratepayers 5 percent interest on those rate hikes. Worst of all, the mayor’s deal prevents the Public Service Commission from overseeing those hikes.
The pledge for new jobs is also far from applause-worthy. Nothing binds Exelon to hire these workers — it merely has to make a “best effort.” Weigh that against Exelon Chief Executive Chris Crane’s statements, reported by The Post in April 2014, that Exelon plans to lay off local Pepco workers to achieve “synergies.”
Exelon wants Pepco so it can sell more of its power, mostly generated by Exelon’s nearly two dozen nuclear reactors . This is why the commission found that the longer-term economic prospects are bleak for ratepayers if Exelon gets its way.
The mayor’s deal is weak on the environment and sustainability. It requires Exelon to build “up to” 10 megawatts of solar but provides no penalty for failure. It allows Exelon to count 5 megawatts of solar already being built at the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant against that 10-megawatt total and does not require Exelon to charge fair-market rates for any solar it sells to the District. Given that Exelon lobbies against strong renewable-energy policies in other cities and states and in Congress, we are concerned about its commitment to meeting or even respecting the District’s strong clean-energy goals. This is why the commission found that Exelon has an “inherent conflict of interest” that cannot be fixed by any settlement agreement.
Most important is that the people of the District don’t want Exelon. Faith leaders understand that higher electric bills will force more people to rely on the charities Exelon threatened to “cut off if a merger [does] not go through.” Small-business leaders worry that Exelon’s higher rates will make it harder for them to grow. And elected leaders recognize the threat of the loss of local control.
No one believes Pepco is perfect. But no backroom deal can persuade Exelon to change its stripes. If Exelon comes to the District, it will stay for decades, doing to us what it has done to its other customers, plain and simple.
The people who will have to pay the higher bills and watch the District’s clean-energy progress stall have said “No.” We wish the mayor had heard them and stood firm. Now it is up to the regulators to recognize this latest settlement for what it is: a bad deal for the District.