PSC to hold hearing on utilities' response to back-to-back blizzards
Barve: Did Montgomery tree-trimming rules make it harder to restore power?
ANNAPOLIS The state Public Service Commission plans to hold a hearing March 23 on the performance of Pepco and other utilities in the recent snowstorms.
Word of the hearing follows a Feb. 18 letter from Del. Kumar P. Barve to PSC Chairman Douglas Nazarian seeking an investigation into electric power outages that plagued Montgomery County during the two snowstorms, which struck Feb. 5-6 and Feb. 9-10.
"The situation that Montgomery County residents faced was not acceptable and was certainly a threat to public health and public safety," wrote Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg.
In an e-mail through a spokeswoman Tuesday, Nazarian wrote: "We appreciate and share the Delegate's (and other legislators') concerns. We monitored closely all of the utilities' performance during the storms, and have opened a proceeding to examine them more closely, and we'll hold a hearing on the 23d."
In the Feb. 18 letter, made public Thursday, Barve wondered whether "cumbersome" county tree-trimming rules played a role.
Bob Hainey, a spokesman for the Pepco, said the utility regularly trims trees in its right of way. And the company asks residents if it can trim trees it thinks will affect power lines. Sometimes the residents say no, he said.
The storms of 2010 were marked by their intensity. Outages that normally might have taken 10 to 20 minutes to repair turned into two-hour jobs, Hainey said.
At the peak, 105,000 Pepco customers were without power during the first storm, and probably more than half of those were in Montgomery, said Robert Dobkin, a utility spokesman.
Over the two storms, Pepco, which serves most of Montgomery, restored almost 400,000 customers, including some who had multiple outages, he said.
In his letter, Barve wrote that his 83-year-old mother, who lives in Bethesda, lost power for several days. He heard from other county residents whose homes registered 40-degree temperatures and lost phone service, he wrote.