Berliner wants second opinion on public power for Montgomery County -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner has asked the county attorney to reconsider what it would take to get public power in Montgomery.

Talk of a publicly owned electric utility re-emerged this summer after Pepco’s response to the June 29 derecho came under fire from residents who spent as long as eight days in the dark.

In a 2011 opinion on the issue, County Attorney Marc Hansen said it would take authorization from the Maryland General Assembly for the county to pursue establishing a publicly-owned franchise and approval of the state Public Service Commission for the franchise to operate.

Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said in a release Thursday that getting enabling legislation would be a difficult challenge.

After talking with proponents of the move away from the investor-owned Pepco who raised questions about Hansen’s opinion, Berliner asked the attorney to reconsider the matter.

“The county should have the right to determine for itself, subject to a referendum, whether public power is both economically practical and a better option for meeting the needs of Montgomery County businesses and residents,” Berliner was quoted as saying. “People want public power on the table.”

Hansen said Friday that he will review his opinion and consider any new information Berliner brings to his attention.

However, Hansen also noted that the Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler in 2011 issued an opinion to then County Council President Valerie Ervin that agreed with Hansen’s view.

“We concur with the County Attorney’s description of the legal prerequisites to the displacement of PEPCO by a County-controlled distributor of electricity,” Gansler and Assistant Attorney General Ann MacNeille wrote in December 2011.

kalexander@gazette.net