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Proposed Bills Would Increase PSC Transparency

Three new bills introduced on Tuesday in the Maryland House of Delegates aim to improve public participation in the Maryland Public Service Commission's oversight of utilities such as Pepco.

Three bills introduced Tuesday in the Maryland House of Delegates aim to make communication between the Maryland Public Service Commission and utility companies operating in the state more transparent.

"We have a system in which the Maryland Public Service Commission [which oversees electric utility companies, including Pepco and BGE] had allowed our utilities to neglect their infrastructure to the point where it is literally crumbling," said state Delegate Al Carr Jr. (D-District 18), who introduced the three bills to improve public participation and public confidence in the PSC's oversight of utilities, according to a statement from Carr's office.

One of the bills proposes live-streaming and archiving all PSC proceedings online. "It is time to put the 'public' back into the Public Service Commission," Carr explained.

Another bill proposes increasing the time, beyond the current 30 days, from when a utility company files an application to increase rates to when interested parties must decide whether or not they will prepare a statement about the rate increase application. Carr said that when weekends are subtracted, only 21 days remain—too "short [an] amount of time to digest a complicated 800-page filing and consider whether to hire an attorney."

The final bill would provide more resources to individuals and nonprofits working in the public interest to evaluate a utility's rate increase request.

"In Maryland, utilities are currently able to hire armies of lawyers and experts to plead their case before the [PSC]," said Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner, who supports the three bills.

"They [the utility companies] often have more resources than the PSC staff, Office of People's Counsel and other parties, combined. They are then able to stick us all with the bill by asking the PSC to include the cost of these experts in the rates," Berliner added. 

In the past seven months, Pepco has requested two rate increases. The first, made last spring, was for close to $68 million. The PSC rejected $50 million of that request, approving only $18 million in July.

Last November, Pepco requested a $60.8 million rate increase. Protests from Maryland residents against the rate increase were well underway by December. 

A decision from the PSC about that most recent rate increase request is expected in July, Patch reported. After that, Pepco will determine whether or not it will make another rate increase request, Pepco President Thomas H. Graham said. 

Do you think these three bills, if passed, would help increase transparency between the PSC and the public? Tell us in the comments.

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