Testimony of Robert Robinson
Chair, DC Consumer Utility Board
Committee of the Whole, Subcommittee on Local Business Development
& Utilities’ Public Roundtable
PR21-1017 Public Service Commission Richard Beverly Confirmation Resolution of 2016
Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 10 a.m.
Room 412, John A. Wilson Building
Good morning and thank you to the members of this Subcommittee for convening this Roundtable and giving the CUB the opportunity to testify.
In September, we officially re-launched CUB as independent, 501 (c) (3) membership organization for DC consumers. Our mission is advocate on behalf of DC ratepayers, taxpayers and residents. We ensure the voices of DC ratepayers, taxpayers and residents are not only heard, but acted upon; promote effective public engagement for public benefit; and advocate for fair, transparent, affordable and progressive reforms of those entities that deliver DC’s electric, water, natural gas, and telecommunication services — services without which no one can expect to sustain a decent quality of life and which must be affordable and accessible to all
Traditionally the CUB interviewed finalists for appointment to the Public Service Commission and for the office of People’s Counsel, before a nominee was submitted to the Council. CUB’s members who participated in this process will explain to you how this worked and its value.
Currently the process for soliciting candidates and selecting a nominee precludes us, as well as Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and civic groups from being able to do that.
But we have no idea of how the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments operates. We would like to know the “timetable” associated with the process. We would like to know what the selection criteria are, what the panel of candidates is and whether they are interviewed and by whom. This process lacks transparency.
We cannot offer a recommendation, we’ve been unable to meet with Mr. Beverly although we have requested to do so.
Additionally, appointments to the PSC arrive at the Counciljust before a Council recess, or the last legislative meeting before a new Council term. This gives subcommittees like yours even less time to learn about the nominees.
Here’s what we are asking from the members of this subcommittee:
- We feel that the Council should insist to the Executive these nominees for the PSC and OPC be available for meetings with ANCs and others.
- We feel the Council should refuse to accept these nominations if there is not ample time for the Council and the public to scrutinize them.
- However, if this subcommittee feels it must vote this nomination up or down, you should put on the record that the CUB objects to nominations being made without transparency and public scrutiny.
We believe the PSC is consistently doing a poor job protecting the interests of ratepayers, taxpayers and residents in the following are.
- We believe the PSC does a poor job of holding utilities accountable to the ratepayers. We face chronic billing problems many of them stemming from Pepco’s botched Advanced Metering Initiative.
- We insist that ratepayers should have a seat at the table in the planning and development of the power distribution infrastructure. The Grid of the Future docket has languished for 18 months: no plans, no time and action plan . . .
- We need focus on the collective impact of utility bills on ratepayers: what is the financial impact having on ratepayers; the impact of our reegulatory schemes on the infrastructure; whether the benefits to ratepayers outweigh the escalating costs
- We do not feel the PSC is providing leadership in responding to the problem of climate change in promoting strategies to meet RPS standards, improve efficiency, and reduce dependency on expensive and dangerous fossil and nuclear fuels.
- The PSC’s regulatory procedures and process are so tortuous and require such an investment in technical and consultative services (lawyers and expert witnesses) the public cannot hope to navigate them.
As long as ratepayers cannot acess ratepayer funds, just as utilities can, the process is unfair and inequitable.
- The PSC routinely ignores resolutions from the public and from ANCs on issues vital to ratepayers. It conducts its public hearings in ways that discourage broad public participation.
- DC suffered badly in the PSC’s conduct of the recent merger investigation, in large part because it failed to develop legislation laying out a coherent merger-and-acquisition policy. The Spanish energy combine Iberdrola reportedly has the acquistion of Washington Gas in its sights.
Thank you for your time and attention.
DC Consumer Utility Board