Flanked by her husband, Anthony “Bubba” Green, Nancy Green sat behind a long, narrow table before several members of the Maryland Public Service Commission, telling the gruesome story of how her daughter Deanna was killed by stray electricity.

“Deanna didn’t touch a live wire or an electrical box,” she said, fighting back tears.

“We live every day without Deanna because she simply touched a fence … Every day I wonder what did I not do to protect my daughter.”

Her 14-year-old was electrocuted and killed when she leaned on two fences after a softball game in Druid Hill Park May 2006. Roughly 270 volts of stray electricity, called contact voltage, surged through her body.

An eighth-grade picture of Deanna in a dark denim jacket sat on the table in front of her parents during her mom’s speech.

The Greens said they had come to humanize a set of regulations they’ve proposed to the commission that would mandate each utility company in Maryland survey public roadways, parks and playgrounds for contact voltage and immediately eradicate it. The lethal voltage occurs when aging or damaged underground electrical wires energize public surfaces.

A BGE spokesman said the company currently scans only half of the light poles and manhole covers they operate every year.

Deemed the “Deanna Camille Green Rule,” the Greens’ plan would require utility businesses to conduct at least two thorough scans a year in Maryland’s major cities to mitigate contact voltage. If the commission enacts the rules, utility businesses would use mobile detections or scanner trucks that instantly recognize public surfaces with high voltage counts as they drive.

Baltimore City transportation officials told the AFRO that they purchased hand-held devices to detect the stray electricity, a buy the Greens call ineffective and more expensive than mobile scanners as they require workers to manually inspect surfaces.

Under their plan, companies would also track and submit extensive records to the public service commission detailing their scans, including the location of energized surfaces, any injuries caused and the length of time it took to make repairs.

Companies could face rate adjustments of 75 basis points on annual earnings if they fail to employ tests.

Similar regulations were enforced in New York State after a young woman died from contact voltage in 2004.

The Greens have received letters of support from at least three legislators including Congressman John P. Sarbanes, Baltimore County Del. Adrienne A. Jones, and Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, D-14. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski has publically testified in support of the proposal and Princeton University professor Cornel West also sent a letter of encouragement.

The five public service commissioners listened intently to the family’s tearful plea for enactment of their proposal. “I pray that no other family will have to go through this as you have,” Commissioner Harold D. Williams told the couple, adding that he would do everything in his power to pass the regulation.

Commission Chair Douglas R. M. Nazarian concurred. “I have two daughters that play sports. Regardless of how this proceeds today, we are committed to addressing this problem,” he said.

They advised the Greens to disassociate their plan from another proposal that calls for increased utility reliability during storms.

“It’s been five long suffering years,” Nancy Green said. “But any delay in the vote for the Deanna Green Rule or its implementation would only put others at risk.”

A commission official told the AFRO it will take at least six weeks for the office to rule on the proposal.

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO