2012 Resource Guides have been posted--These individual County Guides provide information and contact numbers for various government and non-profit resources to help consumers struggling with their utility problems and payment issues. (SEE OUR PUBLICATIONS AREA)
On June 1, 2012 the Federal Communications Commission revised Lifeline Telephone program--Some of the changes involve discounts and palns selected. The major change involved the expanison the the program to individuals in group homes, nursing home, assisted living or similar facility. (See our Alert on this Issue)
Verizon Telephone has established a Priority Repir program for Seniors and persons with Medical Conditions--For full details see the Verizon website (Priority Repair). OPC has prepared an Alert on this subject (Verizon Priority Repair) and we have the forms available for download (Priority Repair forms).
PSC has ruled on the rate increase requests from PEPCO and Delmarva Power. After many hours of work from OPC attroney's and testimony from our consultants, the PSC rejected the attemps by PEPCO and Delmarva for excessive profit levels. In addition the PSC rejected the attempts PEPCO made to recover costs to repair and maintain its systems, due to their failure to maintain its system.
The PSC also rejected the proposed capital cost recovery surcharge called RIM (reliability Investiment recovery Mechanism). These are automatic rate increses are used to avoid traditional rate making with the PSC. SEE OPC PRESS RELEASE
BGE files for a Gas and Electric Distribution Rate Increase--BGE has filed with the MD Public Service Commission for a $200 million rate increase. SEE OPC PRESS RELEASE
Fuel Fund Donations through BGE billing--BGE now makes it possible for customers to donate monies to the Fuel Fund through monthly contributions. Go to www.bge.com/DollarDonation for information
Warning to PEPCO Customers: Avoid a past due billing scam involving a "Green Dot" Visa credit card. If you are contacted call PEPCO at 202-833-7500 and local law enforcement to report it. See Maryland Gazette 1/13/12.
PSC accepts many of the recommendations of OPC and its expert consultants in its December 22, 2011 EmPower Maryland order. These recommendations included statewide standardization of messaging, rebates and offerings of many of the EmPower programs, DHCD administration of low-income efficiency programs and further expansion of the program portfolios to meet EmPower goals. See PSC Case Nos. 9153-9157.
PSC accepts OPC proposal on Bill Stabilization Adjustments (BSAs)--The PSC held hearings last year on changes to the Bill Stabilization Adjustments (BSAs) for electric companies. OPC had proposed the addition of a storm outage exception to the BSA, so that ratepayers do not have to pay for revenues lost during major storms. On January 25, 2012 the PSC issued an order accepting OPC's proposals. See PSC Case Nos. 9257 through 9260.
BGE announces new Customer Service/Billing System. BGE has notified the MD Public Service Commission of the upcoming transition to a new customer service/billing system. Customers will receive a new account number, and will need to change payment information. See OPC Consumer Alert to BGE Customers. If you experience problems, contact BGE directly.
PSC orders initial $1 Million fine against PEPCO for failure to maintain distribution system over several years. OPC's expert, Pete Lanzalotta, documented PEPCO's failure to maintain its system properly for several years, which led to the excessive and long outages experienced by PEPCO customers. The PSC agreed with OPC that PEPCO has not met its responsibilities to provide safe and reliable service and that PEPCO customers should not bear the responsibility for increased expenses resulting from its past failures. See PSC Case No. 9240.
As NASUCA President, People's Counsel files appeal in the 4th Circuit of comprehensive FCC order on Universal Service Fund (USF) reform. Thirteen appeals have been consolidated in the 10th Circuit.
PSC approves proposed reliability and service quality regulations for publication in the Maryland Register. See Rulemaking docket 43 at www.psc.state.md.us for the Work Group Report and proposals. OPC expects the proposed regulations to be published in the Maryland Register in January 2012 at www.dsd.state.md.us for public comment.
People's Counsel is elected President of National Association. NASUCA members choose Paula Carmody to serve as President of the national utility consumer organization. See OPC Press Release and www.nasuca.org.
As President of NASUCA, People's Counsel becomes Executive Committee member of the Critical Consumer Issues Form (CCIF), a joint initiative of NASUCA, NARUC (State Commissions) and EEL (Utility Association). Carmody previously served on the CCIF Advisory Committee and was a key participant in the development of a report, Grid Modernization with a Focus on Consumers, which contains 30 consensus principles on issues affecting consumers as a result of electricity grid modernization. See www.cciforum.com.
OPC gets a significant win for ratepayers in Washington Gas Light Company rate case. Washington Gas Light (WGL) filed for a $30 million rate increase and for approval of a pipeline replacement surcharge after it was unsuccessful in getting a bill passed in the 2011 Maryland Legislative session to get automatic cost recovery for pipeline replacement. OPC's three expert witnesses challenged the rate increase and WGL's justification for the surcharge. In a November 15, 2011 decision, the PSC agreed with OPC and denied the surcharge request and granted less than one-third of the rate increase. See PSC Case 9267 for the PSC order and OPC Testimony.
Consumer Opposition results in sponsor withdrawal of federal anti-consumer Robo-Call bill. NASUCA passed a resolution opposing federal Robo-Call. (H.R. 3035) at its Annual Meeting and provided it to staff to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Maryland Attorney General Gansler joined with all other Attorney Generals in a strong letter of opposition to this attempt to allow solicitation, marketing, debt collection and other unwanted calls and texts to be sent to cell phones without consent. See Resolutions at www.nasuca.org and AG letter at www.oag.state.md.us.
FCC examines telephone cramming again. NASUCA has submitted extensive comments in FCC rule-making proceedings addressing longstanding problems with telephone "cramming," the placement of unauthorized charges on consumer phone bills. NASUCA has recommended a ban, with exceptions, on 3rd party billing on wireline phones. See NASUA web site (www.nasua.org).
PSC hearing (October 3, 2011) held into the storm preparedness and restoration efforts of Maryland electric companies in response to Hurricane Irene (Order #84306 in PSC Case #9279)--BGE, Choptank, Delmarva, PEPCO, Potomac Edison, and SMECO submitted reports on September 21, 2011. OPC's expert reviewed the reports and OPC recommended that the PSC conduct a further investigation of the reasons for BGE's lengthy service restorations. The PSC declined to order an investigation in light of the rulemaking to establish new reliability standards for electric companies.
Public Service Commission launches a new electricity supplier portal on its website--In response to legislation passed this year by the Maryland Legislature, the PSC has set up a new section on its website to display offers and prices from electricity suppliers in each for-profit electric distribution area. Check PSC Website.
People's Counsel draws attention to a new report on consumer principles for grid modernization--The report, "Grid Modernization with a focus on Consumers," contains 30 consensus principles on issues affecting consumers as proposals to modernize the electricity grid, including smart meter installations,are considered. The report was issued by NARUC, NASUCA, and electric industry representatives. Ms. Carmody is on the Advisory Board, and participated in the development of the principles. For more information and to see the report, "Grid Modernization with a focus on Consumers". Ms. Carmody attended a meeting with White House officials about this report on September 29, 2011.
OPC joins other consumer groups and commissions in urging FERC to revise its policies on granting incentives and high authorized returns to developers of transmission projects--[Comments] These issues impact utility customers because the incentives and high returns are passed through to Maryland customers. OPC has opposed numerous requests for incentives and high authorized returns over the past 3 years, and FERC has granted the requests without a hearing and despite OPC's production of expert affidavits in support of our opposition. FERC recently has shown interest in modifying its polices, in response to protests and comments like OPC's, and had requested comments from parties.
PSC adopts new Electric Contact Voltage Regulations, the "Deanna Camille Green Rule," effective November 28, 2011--OPC supported the proposed regulations in comments filed on October 11, 2011. See PSC RM-44 for background information.
The PSC held hearings Verizon to explain 911 outages--The PSC held hearings on last year's 911 outages in Prince's George's and Montgomery Counties. A decision has not been issued yet. The PSC held another hearing on September 27, 2011 to address additional 911 outage problems. OPC has asked the PSC to impose a fine on Verizon for these failures. A PSC decision is pending. See PSC Case No. 9265.
Daily Record names People's Counsel as a 2011 Influential Marylander--The Daily Record created this award in 2006 to honor individuals who have made a significant impact in their fields and are influential leaders in Maryland. Ms. Carmody was chosen by the editorial board for her work in the field of law on behalf of residential ratepayers. For more information, see Daily Record web site (www.mdailyrecord.com).