Robert Berliner, president of Montgomery County, Md., Council, critical of Pepco, wants county to seek public power elsewhere

8:01 PM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) - Harsh words about Pepco's recent performance on Monday from Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner.

He said the County will be asking the State Legislature for permission to seek power elsewhere. And that was just one of the day's headlines to come from Berliner's briefing.

Berliner shared his scathing assessment of Pepco, on behalf of his constituents, and also shed new light on why the restoration process in Montgomery County and the District took so long.

A profanity-laced music video about Pepco's performance

is one of many that have surfaced on youtube. The song may be amusing. The lengthy power outage during an historic heat wave was not.

"Pepco's performance on every level was unacceptable. The length of the outages. The appalling communications. Computer glitches and data distortions, said Berliner.

Berliner says Pepco needs to hire more linemen immediately.

"We need more boots on the ground. I've been told by numerous sources that Pepco only has between 120 and 130 linemen full-time," he said.

And that makes it harder for Pepco to get aid from other parts of the country.

"If you are not able to provide mutual assistance to them, then you get less in return. So we do get less crews, because we have less to offer," Berliner said.

Berliner also urged the State to change the way it deals with Pepco.

"What we need in Maryland is something other states have adopted: performance-based 'rate making.' It's a simple concept. If the utilities perform, they make their money. But if they fail to perform, it gets wacked," he said

Storm debris across the area serves as a reminder of what happened and what's likely to come again. And so, Montgomery County plans to ask the State Legislature for permission to seek public power elsewhere, an issue that would ultimately be decided through a referendum.

Council President Berliner also said that Pepco needs to be held accountable. When asked about the $1 million fine issued against Pepco by the Public Service Commission last December, Berliner called that "chump change" and "a slap on the wrist." He said that something around $40 million might get their attention.

Finally, Montgomery County will hold public hearings into Pepco's performance, on July 19th, starting at 12:30 p.m. Elected officials expect to get an earful.

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