Montgomery wants Pepco rate-appeal cases to stay in the county -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County wants the four appeals of Pepco’s latest rate increase heard locally, but the utility company and the Public Service Commission want Baltimore City Circuit Court to decide the cases.

Pepco and the PSC have asked Montgomery County Circuit Court to transfer the county’s appeal to Baltimore City Circuit Court. That’s where the utility, the Office of People’s Counsel and AARP also have filed appeals on the Maryland Public Service Commission’s July 12 approval of higher rates.

Montgomery County has asked Baltimore City Circuit Court to transfer the cases filed there to Montgomery County Circuit Court.

All parties want the four appeals heard in one court but at issue is which court ultimately will decide if the PSC’s decision to grant Pepco higher rates and an upfront surcharge will stand.

In its July ruling, the PSC granted $27.9 million of a $60.8 million request by Pepco for higher rates, adding about $2.41 to the average customer’s monthly bill.

It also granted the electric utility $24 million of a $192 million request for an upfront surcharge, the first ever awarded by the commission. Known as a grid resiliency charge, the approved surcharge would tack an additional 6 cents on monthly customer bills in the first year and would fund additional improvements to Pepco’s infrastructure. The charges went into effect on July 12.

Montgomery County Attorney Marc P. Hansen said the appeals should be heard where the bulk of those affected by the PSC ruling live, Montgomery County. Pepco serves about 536,000 customers in Maryland, of which about 312,000 are in Montgomery County, according to the company.

“Montgomery County Circuit Court is the most appropriate venue,” Hansen said. “This is where the ratepayers are.”

Pepco, in a statement provided by spokesman Marcus Beal, said it filed in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City because the Public Service Commission and the Office of People’s Counsel, which is an advocate for the state’s residential utility customers, are located there.

“This is in line with Pepco’s previous activities involving judicial review,” the statement said. “Three of the four parties that have filed an appeal also have filed in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City.”

Regina Davis, a spokeswoman for the PSC, wrote in an email that the commission’s motion to transfer Montgomery County’s case to Baltimore City argued that Baltimore is where the first appeal was filed and is the most convenient to the various parties.

The Office of People’s Counsel said it supports transferring Montgomery’s case to Baltimore City Circuit Court.

A hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court on the request to transfer the cases to Montgomery County is scheduled for Oct. 18.

No hearing has been scheduled in Montgomery County Circuit Court, according to court records.

The city of Gaithersburg has said that it will join Montgomery County in its appeal of Pepco’s new rates instead of forming its own appeal.

The mayor and council decided on this approach in a closed session on Aug. 19 and made the decision public at a regular meeting on Sept. 3.

However, Hansen said Tuesday that the city has not yet shared its plans with his office.

According to City Attorney Lynn Board, the city is concerned about the increased power costs.

“The biggest issue has been the cost of street lighting, because there are separate rates for power to street lights,” she said. The higher rates would mean a $40,000 increase in power costs over previous years.

The city has planned for a higher power bill in its budget, Board said, since the case was in progress when the budget was drawn.

Staff Writer Sylvia Carignan contributed to this story

kalexander@gazette.net

scarignan@gazette.net