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Constellation's office on Pratt Street in Baltimore. (File photo)

Coalition wants conditions on Exelon-Pepco merger

A coalition of elected officials and environmental groups is asking the Public Service Commission to consider setting conditions on Exelon should a proposed merger with Pepco Holdings Inc. be approved.

The Coalition for Utility Reform, a group comprised of elected officials and town governments in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as environmental groups, filed a petition to intervene Wednesday in the merger application before the Public Service Commission. In its filing, the group did not take a position on whether the merger should be approved but called on the commission to make the company reach standards for environmental stewardship, cost to customers, consumer satisfaction, reliability and innovation.

An attorney for the group wrote that “for the commission to find that the proposed merger is in the public interest, it must include among the conditions it imposes tying at least 50 percent of the merged entity’s return on equity to meet performance metrics that will produce a more cost effective, reliable, cleaner, technologically advanced and consumer-directed distribution system.”

The coalition is represented by Roger A. Berliner, a Montgomery County councilman who is a member of the group, along with other members of that county’s legislative body.

Exelon, which owns BGE, is seeking to acquire Pepco holdings in a $6.8 billion deal. Included in that deal is the utility company that serves 500,000 people in the suburbs of Washington D.C.; Delmarva power, which serves 1.4 million people in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland; and Atlantic City Electric in southern New Jersey.

“The proposed merger has profound implications for the state of Maryland,” Berliner wrote. “If approved, it would result in a single player being responsible for providing electric distribution services to approximately 85 percent of Maryland. For the residents who have suffered through unacceptably poor service by Pepco throughout the years, this proceeding will determine our fate going forward for decades to come.”

Berliner wrote that the coalition, along with other groups, believes the current model for utility service is outdated and that the commission should move toward a new model that would reward utilities for exceeding service goals but also implement penalties for falling short.

The group said that the commission could hold a separate proceeding to set those goals but that “this proceeding should clearly identify policy objectives and consumer requirements suitable for the 21st century.”