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About 128,000 BGE customers still without electricity

More than 141,000 customers were still without power Wednesday in the mid-Atlantic region, days after Hurricane Irene finished pummeling the area.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. was reporting the most outages in the region, with approximately 128,000 customers without power as of Wednesday afternoon. Most of those outages were in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, and Baltimore City. The sustained outages prompted a Maryland lawmaker to call for data about the utility’s employees, a review of its preparedness plans and a public hearing.

Republican Del. Pat McDonough wrote a letter Tuesday to the Maryland Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities in the state. He said the utility is not “storm ready.” McDonough said that the utility has reduced the number of employees who specialize in maintaining and repairing the system.

“As a result, the consumers of this state, despite drastic increases in rates, are receiving drastic decreases in service,” McDonough wrote.

McDonough said his office got more than 50 telephone complaints on matters such as dangling live wires and customers’ inability to get utility officials to address their concerns.

A spokesman for the utility, however, said crews will actually be able to restore power faster than in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel blew through the region, causing power outages affecting a total of 790,000 customers. At the time, it took Baltimore Gas and Electric eight days to restore everyone’s power.

This time around, about 750,000 customers have lost power, according to BGE spokesman Robert Gould. The utility has committed to restoring the vast majority of power by Friday with some outages continuing into Saturday, Gould said. That would mean that full restoration took seven days.

Gould said McDonough was “flat wrong” in saying the utility is not storm ready. He said the utility would be a willing participant in any hearing about the storm but said it was too soon to start assessing the utility’s performance.

“The time for review and assessment of our utility or, frankly, any other utility will be after we have restored every customer,” Gould said.

For his part, McDonough said comparing Hurricane Irene to Hurricane Isabel was like comparing apples to oranges because the severity of the damage was different.

Other utilities in the region also were still experiencing some outages. Pepco said about 820 customers lacked power in Washington and its Maryland suburbs as of Wednesday afternoon. It expected to restore service to all of its customers by Thursday evening. About 530 of the outages were in Prince George’s County.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative said it had about 11,242 customers out. Delmarva Power was reporting about 1,085 customers without power. And Dominion Power said about 483 customers in Northern Virginia don’t have electricity.

Nationally, nearly 2 million homes and businesses were still without power.

Utilities restored about 7.4 million customers by Wednesday, according to an Associated Press tally of company reports. Hundreds of communities are still without power.

One of the hardest-hit places remains the Richmond, Va., metro area, where 36 percent of the 491,000 power customers remain in the dark. Elsewhere, more than half of the 3,600 power customers in Wakefield, N.H., are still without power, while nearly half of the 14,700 customers in the town of Southold on New York’s Long Island and a third of the 6,600 customers in Sharon, Mass., are still out.

Meanwhile, Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office estimated that Maryland lost more than $2 million in revenue due to business lost in Ocean City because of Hurricane Irene.

Franchot estimated the state lost about $1.75 million in sales tax revenue and $150,000 in withholding taxes following the evacuation of beach resort town.

Officials also estimated a $60,000 loss in gas tax revenue, because weekend trips were canceled. Officials also say about $45,000 in toll revenue also was lost.

The comptroller asked the state’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates to study the storm’s economic impact. That will allow the information to be included in the state’s next round of revenue estimates, which are scheduled to be released in mid-September.