Message from the Chair

Welcome to the first newsletter of the DC Consumer Utility Board, AKA “The CUB” or “dcCUB.” In each newsletter, we will feature updates on what’s going on with the utilities in DC, share resources and feature events, photos and stories.

DC CUB’s September 17 kickoff event at UDC Law School introduced new voices and ideas. It reunited many(over one-hundred) who have struggled for ratepayers, taxpayers and residents for years.

Councilmember Cheh was joined by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who stopped by to join us. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Fry, offered a fine historical overview of the CUB, and, with Dean Shelley Broderick of the UDC School of Law gave a warm welcome. 

Rick Powell, whom many credit as the prime mover in the CUB’s creation attended, and OPC’s first liaison to the CUB, Elizabeth Evans. As did former CUB Chair A. Bernard Jones. DC’s activist organizations were amply represented from DC SUN, Sierra Club, DC Chapter, and DC Climate Action to the DC Electrical Association. Former People’s Counsel Betty Noel did us the honor of attending!

Appreciation to all those who came, joined the CUB, contributed and volunteered. 

Mary Cheh shared what, for me, was key: the lasting value of legislative reform:

“Every time I reminded the PSC of the threat of global warming, I’d hear, ‘But Councilmember Cheh, nothing in the Code requires us to protect the environment.’ So I put that language in. Now I begin by reading from the Code . . .’ “

Jacqui Patterson took us on a road trip through a landscape of environmental injustice. It’s our toxic legacy to every community of color and low-income community, hidden in plain view. Look no further than River Terrace, Kenilworth-Parkside and Kingman Park. 

Jessica Azulay, showed that winning the battles of Distributed Generation begins by reforming current regulatory processes, that place ratepayers at an untenable disadvantage.

DC’s grass roots, led by Councilmember Cheh, have a vision for a clean and affordable energy future driven by locally-produced efficiency and renewables. 

The DC Department of Energy and the Environment has a plan. But no plan to implement it.

 

Its draft Comprehensive Energy Plan (five years in the making has been released). The document contains no implementation strategy. Nor does it align DC government tax and financial, regulatory, programmatic and legislative policies to incentivize a strategy. DOEE’s energy initiative to date consists of reprogramming $50 million of ratepayers funding into the General Fund for what -- they won’t tell us.
There will be rate hikes. Despite the fact that the DC Public Service Commission failed to refute the arguments made by its staff in PSC Order No. 17947. 

Pepco’s $85+ million rate hike is in play (FC No. 1139), and ratepayers don’t have to fret about a planning process, because there is none. We depend on fossil and nuclear fuels: they cost more, the utility produces them, we will have to pay more, the utility will make more money by using them.

Still more rate hikes.

Washington Gas Light Company, after having long ignored its infrastructure, has a proposal. They want to build more pipeline, but they want to keep it leaky because we reward them for leakage — about 3% of what they supply. And they want us to pay putting pipelines directly into apartments in multifamily buildings. Believe it. 

Then there’s PSC Formal Case No. 1130, the “Modernization of the Electric Distribution System for Improved Sustainability”. The stakeholders have no seat at the table, there are no goals or objectives and no time-and-action plan. 

And more rate hikes.

David Freeman, our hero and the doyen of Renewable Energy made the most sensible recommendation I’ve heard this year. “Pass a law that requires the local government to reduce its consumption of fossil and nuclear fuels by at least 3% annually.” 

That would sure be one way to kick a DC Comprehensive Energy Plan into gear.

Postscripts:

  1. The Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments rejected two names (Scott Strauss and Susana Chu) put forward by the PowerDC coalition to replace PSC Commissioner Joanne Doddy Fort, whose appointment expired this past June. Who stands for consumers? I’ve written to the Mayor asking her to reinstate the process of allowing the CUB to interview finalists for appointments to the Public Service Commission and the People’s Counsel. 
  2. On October 15, I arrived at the Thurgood Marshall Academy at 11:00 a.m. to testify before the PSC on Formal Case No. 1137, the Washington Gas Light Company rate increase (above). The hearing was scheduled to take place from 10:00 - 12:00 p.m. But PSC members Fort and Phillips ran out of witnesses and adjourned the meeting at 10:45 a.m. and left.