Montgomery brings Pepco fight in house -- Gazette.Net


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Ongoing battles against Pepco’s requests for more money will now have Montgomery County’s full legal attention.

The county has dedicated an assistant county attorney to focus on utility issues, which brings the fight against Pepco’s latest rate case in house.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said lawyer Lisa Brennan moved from the Office of Consumer Protection, where she dealt frequently with utility issues, to the Office of the County Attorney where utilities will now dominate her time.

In the past, Montgomery County used both outside legal counsel and its county attorneys to fight against Pepco’s in proceedings before the Maryland Public Service Commission.

This year, the county decided it would bring its efforts in house, Lacefield said.

“I think that everyone is pretty clear that the county is staying on utilities to make sure that we have as safe and reliable service as we can,” Brennan said.

“We have concluded we are going to be in this for the long term, not just one or two rate cases,” Councilman Roger Berliner.

Not only is dedicating Brennan’s time to utilities evidence that the county is committed to those issues, but it also should reduce costs to taxpayers, said Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda.

Montgomery spent $238,398.75 last year on outside counsel to fight Pepco, which had asked to increase its base distribution rates by $68 million, according to information from County Attorney Marc P. Hansen, provided by Lacefield. Brennan’s annual salary is $89,596, according to figures released by the county in December.

The county pushed against Pepco’s last request, the bulk of which was denied in July.

Pepco has asked the PSC for another rate increase, this time totaling $60.8 million more in base distribution rates, or $7.13 per month from the average customer, as well as a three-year grid resiliency charge. Starting at 96 cents per month in 2014, the charge would increase annually to $1.70 a month in 2015 and $1.93 a month in 2016, and would pay to accelerate tree trimming, upgrade 12 more feeders a year and put six distribution feeders underground.

While she will deal with more than just Pepco, the rate case will be her major focus for the time being, Brennan said.

“I don’t know if there is going to any other case that is pending at the Public Service Commission that is going to affect county residents quite so much,” Brennan said.

kalexander@gazette.net