- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Community leaders and D.C. Council members on Tuesday called for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to oppose the proposed merger of utility companies Pepco and Exelon, saying it represents a bad deal for city residents.

More than 20 of the city’s 41 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions’s have declared opposition to Exelon’s acquisition of D.C.-based Pepco Holdings Inc., and many rallied alongside three council members in front of the John A. Wilson Building Tuesday.

“There is a reason why none of the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions has endorsed the proposed Exelon-Pepco deal,” said Judi Jones, an ANC member from Ward 4. “It’s because D.C. residents don’t want higher rates, we don’t want to lose our access to clean and efficient energy.”

Ms. Bowser has yet to take a position on the merger and time left to weigh in on the deal is running out.

The D.C. Public Service Commission is accepting public comment on Exelon’s $6.8 billion acquisition through May 27. A final decision on the matter is expected over the summer.

The Maryland Public Service Commission’s recommendation on the deal is due Friday.

A spokesman for the mayor said her legal team, led by Mark Tuohey, is still reviewing the matter.

“As the last jurisdiction to review the merger, the Bowser administration is committed to negotiating a resolution that best serves the interests of District residents and ratepayers,” said spokesman Mike Czin.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh said those who have sifted through the details of the acquisition have come to the conclusion that Exelon proposal is bad news for D.C. residents.

“The fundamental problem is they have this 20th century model of energy, mostly from nuclear power, and sell as much as they can,” said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “We want to conserve as much as we can.”

Environmentalists have opposed the acquisition, decrying the reliance that Exelon has on power generation through its nuclear power plants as its business model. Pepco was divested from electricity generation more than a decade ago and now profits from serving as an energy supplier rather than generator.

Exelon has defended the deal, saying it will result in better service and reliability for D.C. customers and will include a one-time $50 credit per customer.

The District’s Office of the People’s Counsel cautioned that in the long run, customers would likely see higher rate increases with the deal than without it.

Prince George’s and Montgomery county executives in March both endorsed the deal in Maryland following negotiations that included $50 per customer credits and a commitment to fund energy-efficiency programs.

The Montgomery County Council tried to put the brakes on the deal, asking the Maryland PSC “to mitigate the serious risks to the public interest” by obtaining additional concessions from Exelon as part of the agreement.

Lawmakers don’t have the authority to block the deal, but their opinions can carry weight if they submit statements of support or opposition to the Maryland and D.C. public service commissions.

The deal, which would make Chicago-based Exelon Corp. one of the nation’s largest utility companies, requires approval from the public service commission boards in all involved jurisdictions in order to proceed. New Jersey Public Service Commission has already approved the merger and the company struck an agreement that paves the way for approval in Delaware.

Exelon spokesman Paul Adams said the company doesn’t expect the deal to be blocked by either the District or Maryland but noted “under that scenario we would need to carefully review the order before determining our next steps.”

The company could file for a rehearing before either the Maryland or D.C. PSC or pursue the matter in court.

Ms. Cheh said Pepco has a lot of pull in city government — noting that former employees hold high level positions and numerous elected officials have received campaign donations from the company.

The mayor’s senior adviser, Beverly Perry, previously served as senior vice president of Pepco. Ms. Perry has recused herself of all dealings on the matter, Mr. Czin said.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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