Montgomery County has asked a judge to stop the recent rate increase and surcharge that the Maryland Public Service Commission approved for Pepco in mid-July.
The commission granted Pepco $27.9 million of a $60.8 million request for higher rates as well as $24 million of a $192 million surcharge the company requested to levy on top of what customers already pay.
For the average customer, that would raise monthly electric bills $2.41 plus an additional 6 cents in the first year.
On Tuesday, the county filed an appeal to the ruling in Circuit Court at the direction of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). As party to the case, the county can appeal the ruling.
“I believe that Pepco has made improvements in their communications, infrastructure, and emergency response systems since last summer’s ‘Derecho’ storm,” Leggett said in a statement released Tuesday. “However, just how improved these changes are have not yet been seriously tested. That’s why granting even less than half of the $60 million requested by Pepco is premature and unwise.”
Granting the surcharge was troubling and sets a terrible precedent, Leggett said in the statement.
Maryland’s Public Service Commission broke with years of precedent on July 12 when it approved Pepco’s request to charge customers $24 million for extra infrastructure work, in advance, by way of a grid resiliency charge, or GRC.
“We will continue our ongoing efforts to make sure that Montgomery County gets reliable energy at a reasonable cost,” Leggett said. “This rate increase — and especially the automatic so-called ‘Grid Resiliency Charge’ — does not help and should not stand.”
Leggett said he asked the county attorney to file the appeal to stop the recent ruling.
Myra Oppel, Regional Communications Vice President for Pepco Holdings, offered little comment on the appeal.
“Maryland law provides the right of appeal from Public Service Commission decisions,” she said in an email. “As a party to the proceeding, Montgomery County may exercise its right to appeal the commission’s decision. Pepco will fully participate in the appellate process.”
While the Public Service Commission agreed to the rate increase and the surcharge, it was divided on allowing the surcharge, with one commissioner strongly opposed.
Until this month, the commission had denied requests for similar surcharges — commonly referred to as trackers — including a request last year from Pepco.
Now that a tracker has been allowed, some fear denying others will be a challenge.
“If we now deviate from our historic rate-making principles and allow this GRC tracker, it will be difficult to find a principled way to deny future requests by other Maryland utilities for tracker surcharges for their similar reliability plant infrastructure projects,” Commissioner Harold D. Williams wrote in opposition. “Today we are letting the tracker genie out of the bottle, and I fear it will continue granting the wishes of Maryland utilities for many years and we may never get it back in the bottle.”
The new customer rates went into effect July 12.