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O'Malley: Stronger Storms Mean Need for Stronger Power Grid

Public Service Commission plans hearings on Pepco's response to the June 29 storm.

This is the first of two articles based on comments by Gov. Martin O’Malley this week about Pepco, the Maryland Public Service Commission and the future of Maryland’s power grid.

Stronger storms than the region has seen in decades mean Maryland needs a stronger electrical grid—and that means the state’s Public Service Commission has work to do after it holds hearings next month, Gov. Martin O’Malley said during .

“I think there’s pretty broad consensus that the grid that we currently have is not as strong as it needs to be to weather the far more violent and frequent weather events that a warm atmosphere is going to be bringing for the foreseeable future,” O’Malley (D) said.

Pepco executives and state officials, including PSC Chairman Douglas R.M. Nazarian, joined the Montgomery County Council on Thursday afternoon in Rockville for a debriefing on

The PSC on Thursday announced plans to hold a public hearing on Pepco’s response to the June 29 storm at 7 p.m. on Aug. 7 in the third floor hearing room of the at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockvillle. A second hearing on Pepco is scheduled for Aug. 8 at Rennie Forum at Prince George’s Community College, 301 Largo Road in Largo.

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Changing perspective on power lines

O’Malley’s mother lives in a part of Rockville’s Fallsmead neighborhood where power lines are underground, he said. The neighborhood fared better in the June 29 storm than did other parts of the state, where hundreds of thousands were left without power. But it still saw major damage.

“In my old neighborhood of Rockville, where I grew up as a boy, old trees that I have known all my life were snapped in half like toothpicks,” he said.

In the course of an 11-minute media gaggle, O’Malley repeatedly mentioned that the storms in recent years have been more violent, saying that in his 49 years, “I’ve never seen a sort of violent windshield wiper storm like that just, kind of, whip across the region.”

The damage left by these violent storms could change the perspective on the need to take on expensive infrastructure upgrades, such as putting power lines underground, he said.

“What might not have been a wise cost proposal in terms of undergrounding in the weather of the 1980s, might actually be cheaper in the long run in the weather of 2010, 2015, 2020,” O’Malley said. “And that’s part of the reality that we need to wrestle with here.”

Customers’ ire

In , which went live while many were still without power around the state, 68 percent rated the storm response by Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric as “abysmal.” Thirty-one percent voted for the choice that said: “They are doing the best they can. This was a highly unusual storm.”

In the comments, readers both thanked utility crews and public safety workers and fumed at the utility companies.

Stephen Sears wrote: “I could answer ‘both’ to the poll. I'm sure they're doing the best they can, but it is abysmal nonetheless. Per usual, these hapless, leadership-challenged utilities refuse to acknowledge that they're supposed to provide reliable service for their paying customers.”

Rate increases and the challenge for the PSC

Meanwhile, before the June 29 storm. The proposed hike would increase the average residential bill by $5.50 and would collect more than $67 million, The Washington Post reported.

Asked if Pepco should get the rate increase, O’Malley said he didn’t want “to presuppose the Public Service Commission,” adding: “It’d be mathematically inconsistent to insist on a greater level of investment and a lower rate of return.”

In September 2010, Pepco launched a five-year $910 million effort to strengthen power lines and trim trees.

“But there’s more that needs to be done,” O’Malley said. “I don’t think anybody believes it’s happening fast enough and frankly, there are some, in hindsight, who believe they should’ve been on to this prior to 2010."

 

What do you think of Gov. O'Malley's comments? Should the state push for undergrounding of power lines? Should Pepco get the requested rate increase? Does the Public Service Commission need to push utilities harder to upgrade the power grid? 

B Allen July 20, 2012 at 03:16 PM
yeah jenny, GOD forbide should any business make a profit and OWEmalley IS part of the problem. The article you posted is misleading. First of all the earning that is reported about the CEO and others takes in account ALL stock options that they will make when they LEAVE. The salaries (which are WAY less) that they get are comparable tot he industry. Therefore after reading FALSE info, the rest of the artice was worthless and full of lies and deceipt. Go find a more reliable source of info. OH BTW, you people have short memories...when MD dem legislators went to the utility companies years ago and asked them to keep the rates LOWER than the industry standard for a period of 9yrs and after that period they could raise their rates to the industry standard, noone complained, until they raised the rates to the industry standard. PEPCO and BG&E complied. Even those running the power grids in the USA said it was a VERY BAD deal for the consumers in MD. Well, at least your leader is keeping one campaign promise, remember he did say he was going to put the coal business OUT OF BUSINESS, well he and the EPA are doing just that and you good little party followers are putting the blame on businesses...good little "comrads" http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/utilities-announce-closure-of-10-aging-power-plants-in-midwest-east/2012/02/29/gIQANSLEiR_story.html
B Allen July 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
well said William. These people that visit these postings don't like the way I "go for the jugular" but I don't care. I am fighting them with their own tactics. They can't handle someone armed with the facts and truth coming at them full force. Their saul alinsky rules for radicals backfire on them
B Allen July 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
and in Most cases can be replaces with a couple of trees.
B Allen July 20, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Frank, call it what you want but I enjoy seeing you people squirm and try to talk your way out of the lies and deciept that you spew all the time. Just like your savior in the white house saying businesses did not create them, the government helped them, hahaha. Now they are trying to squirm their way out of that...you people will always get caught with the lies.
LMilor July 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
If the power lines were undeground in the "old neighborhoods", just like is required in newer subdivisons, the "tree issue" would be a nonissue. What if PEPCO got a rate increase, like the pro-business people want, but they hasd conditions imposed that a certain # power lines/year would be buried? Doesn't that sound like a reasonable compromise?

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