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Mizeur's ideas about utility regulation reform are on target [Letter]

Electricity Production and DistributionConsumers

As the leaders of Powerupmontco and Reliability4HOCO, two non-partisan electric utility consumer advocacy groups, we were frustrated with your recent editorial critical of gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur's electric utilities reform proposal ("Short circuit," May 19).

For nearly a decade, Pepco and BGE's electric utility monopolies have failed to adequately invest in their distribution systems. As a result of years of imprudent management by these utilities, ratepayers are forced to live with bottom-level power reliability ratings, "blue sky outages" and contact voltage hazards.

Yet despite this poor service record, utility rates are constantly on the rise. With the recent confirmation of former utility executive Anne E. Hoskins to the state Public Service Commission, the agency has now become a victim of regulatory capture and is deterred from carrying out its statutory requirements under the Maryland Public Utilities Code.

Ms. Mizeur's proposals, including the provision for reviewing each electric utility's franchise every 10 to 15 years, are concrete policy initiatives that deal with a critical situation. It is not at all "absurd" to call for ending the lack of periodic reviews of monopoly franchises that has permitted utilities to let their systems become dilapidated and unreliable while still being fully recompensed by their customers.

The Sun's opinion that Delegate Mizeur's proposal "betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the system" is unfounded. The Sun asserts that a fundamental feature of utility regulation is that "it has always been the case that the companies are allowed to seek reimbursement from customers for prudent and necessary investments in their infrastructure." Yet in the past the PSC has denied Pepco the right to collect in excess of $10 million of prudently incurred costs due to the companies' own imprudent actions.

The policy initiatives outlined by Ms. Mizeur's campaign are some of the most consumer-friendly ideas currently available, and they should be welcomed by anyone who has lived in Pepco's or BGE's service areas.

Abbe Milstein

The writer is a member of Powerupmontco, a non-partisan electric utility consumer advocacy group.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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