Sandra Mattavous-Frye

Sandra Mattavous-Frye, the District’s People’s Counsel, has filed an appeal against the D.C. Public Service Commission’s approval of the Exelon-Pepco merger. (Twitter Photo)

The Office of the People’s Counsel recently filed an appeal against the District of Columbia Public Service Commission’s decision on the Exelon-Pepco merger because it is uncomfortable with the process the commission used to approve it.  On Aug. 12, Sandra Mattavous-Frye, the People’s Counsel of the District of Columbia (OPC), filed a Petition for Review requesting the District of Columbia Court of Appeals examine the commission’s June 17 order approving the Exelon-Pepco merger.

“OPC is appealing the order because it has a number of procedural weaknesses that must be addressed by the D.C. Court of Appeals,” Mattavous-Frye said. “Judicial review is critical not only because the decision impacts this case, but all cases going forward in terms of the process and procedures the commission uses in making its decisions. It concerns the amount of process, or lack thereof, afforded to all parties; and the manner in which the settlements are decided.”

The commission approved the $6.8 billion Exelon-Pepco merger on March 23 despite reservations from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D), Matavous-Frye, a number of D.C. Council members, and the majority of advisory neighborhood commissioners.

In the approval, Exelon agreed to a one-time rate credit for customers, a community benefits package that includes credits and assistance for low-income and elderly residents as well as grants to non-profit organizations, an Exelon office in the District and an investment in the city’s solar and other alternative energy programs.

On June 30, Pepco requested the commission grant a rate increase of 5.25 percent to most District customers, a move that upset merger opponents such as advisory neighborhood commission chairman Andy Litsky in Ward 6.

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Pepco officials said the increase was necessary to pay for increased costs of business operations and that it was the first increase requested in three years. “My staunch commitment from the beginning of this case to today – to ensure that District consumers receive maximum benefits from the merger – dictates that OPC exhaust all reasonable remedies and not let bygones be bygones,” Matavous-Frye said in her appeal. “At the same time, the OPC will actively litigate and oppose Pepco’s $85 million increase request.”

Outcomes from the appeal process could include a court of appeals order to the commission to modify the merger agreement while allowing the merger to stand or to reject the merger outright. If the appeals court rejects the merger, all of the activities of Exelon-Pepco could come to a standstill.

“The Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia upheld its March 23 order approving the merger of Exelon and Pepco, affirming its decision that the merger is in the public interest,” according to a statement Vincent Morris, communications director for Pepco, sent to the AFRO on Aug. 15. ”In so doing, the commission found that the procedure it employed in reaching its decision was proper and afforded the parties the opportunity to present their views, and that the decision was based on substantial evidence in the record.  Since the merger was completed, the two companies have worked to integrate their operations in a way that creates efficiencies and provides a range of benefits to our valued customers.”