Pepco asserts it restored power first; maybe not -- Gazette.Net


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Pepco has boasted it was the first in the area to fully restore power after the June 29 derecho, but reports from neighboring utilities debunk that claim.

In an Aug. 3 letter to customers, Pepco Region President Thomas H. Graham touted his utility as the first to get power back after the storm knocked out service to about 4.2 million customers across a 600-mile swath of the U.S., from the Ohio valley to the Mid-Atlantic.

“We reached 100 percent restoration before any other utility in the area — just before dawn on Sunday, July 8,” Graham wrote.

Yet both Dominion Virginia Power just across the Potomac River and Potomac Edison in Maryland reported restoring power sooner, in the case of Potomac Edison nearly two days earlier. And Baltimore Gas and Electric reported restoring power on the same day as Pepco.

Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel did not provide how or what information Pepco used to reach its conclusion.

“Because our response was compared to our major neighboring utilities, however, we wished to clarify to our customers that Pepco finished restoring power to all our customers before our large neighboring utilities completed all their restoration,” she wrote.

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s office performed its own comparison of utility performance and found Pepco had fewer outages, assigned fewer crews and took nearly five days to reach Dominion’s level of restoration.

“PEPCO is cherry-picking the facts to cover up its poor performance,” said Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, according to a statement forwarded by his spokeswoman Bridgett Frey. “At this point, it needs to focus less on [public relations] and more on improving reliability and service for its customers.”

Based on data from Potomac Edison, Dominion Virginia Power and BG&E — Pepco’s three closest electric utility neighbors — Pepco came in second-to-last locally, only ahead of BGE, which reported fully restoring power in the early afternoon of July 8 after it was certain all customers were back on, BGE spokesman Rob Gould said.

In Maryland, Potomac Edison — a division of FirstEnergy that includes portions of West Virginia and Maryland — restored power to the last customer around 6 p.m. July 6, according to the major storm report it filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission. Spokesman Todd Meyers said it restored power to its customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia around the same time.

Daisy Pridgen, spokeswoman for Dominion Virginia Power, said her company restored power to the last customers in Northern Virgina around 10 p.m. July 7 and by 5 p.m. that same day in the Richmond area.

Pridgen said Dominion had about 1 million affected customers. Pepco reported about 450,000 affected customers. Potomac Edison reported 72,718 of its Maryland customers lost power; BG&E reported about 748,000 outages.

The letter, sent to all the company’s customers, gives credence to the saying that there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics, Sen. Brian Frosh said.

“For Pepco to say it finished even at the same time, when it started with a base half as high as Dominion, is at best misleading, probably inaccurate to boot,” said Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase.

Graham’s letter also asserted that according the “Federal Emergency Management Association [sic]” — the federal disaster organization is the Federal Emergency Management Agency — more than 100,000 customers in other parts of Maryland and nearby states still were without power just before dawn on July 8.

When questioned about the statement, Oppel said Graham’s comment was based on a report by the U.S. Department of Energy and a specific appendix, also by the Department of Energy, according to the cited source in the report. FEMA is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Customers in parts of West Virginia, Ohio and southern Virginia still were without power by the time Pepco had restored service to its last affected customer, according to the companies referenced in the Department of Energy report — American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio, Appalachian Power, Alleghany Power (now owned by FirstEnergy), FirstEnergy Ohio, BG&E, Pepco and Dominion Virginia Power.

AEP Ohio had 19,900 customers without power as of 4 p.m. July 8, spokesman Jeff Rennie said. It restored power to the last customers affected by the storm on July 11. AEP serves customers in central, southern, southeastern, eastern and northwestern Ohio, Rennie said.

Appalachian Power, which serves parts of West Virginia and Virginia, reported 57,000 customers still were without power by the afternoon of July 8 — 45,000 in West Virginia and 12,000 in Virginia around Lynchburg and Roanoke, according to its news release archive.

FirstEnergy’s Mon Power, which covers much of West Virgina, reported 34,200 customers in that state without power on July 8, according to a FirstEnergy news release.

FirstEnergy Ohio had restored power to all customers by the end of the day, July 8, spokesman Mark Durbin said.

kalexander@gazette.net