Harry Wingo

Harry Wingo is the president and CEO of the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce. (Linkedin Photo)

Various business and community leaders from across the District of Columbia have reacted strongly, pro and con, to the recent denial Exelon-Pepco merger.

On Aug. 25, the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia rejected the application of the proposed $6.9 billion merger between Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, which has extensive holdings in power companies nationally, with Pepco Holdings, the energy company that operates in the District and some eastern states. The rejection put a stop to the entire Mid-Atlantic merger and Harry Wingo, the president and CEO of the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t happy about it.

“I am disappointed by the commission’s decision and think it should have recognized the benefits – such as greater reliability and lower rates – that the merger would bring to residents and businesses in the District,” Wingo said. “Benefits that this decision threatens to deny the District include $33.75 million in rate savings and millions more over the next decade. Also at risk are guaranteed higher levels of local charitable contributions, guaranteed improvements to system reliability, faster storm damage restoration, and new jobs in the District.”

Wingo said he felt “that the proposed merger would be in the public interest and would contribute to the continued growth of our business community.”

Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams serves as the chief executive officer and executive director of the Federal City Council, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the improvement of the District. Williams said that the merger rejection hurt not only Exelon and Pepco, but the “District of Columbia business community.”

“The merger would bring substantial and tangible benefits for the District of Columbia’s citizens and economy with no downside,” he continued. “The merger is in the interests of the District as a whole and the continued growth of the business community, and today’s decision is not.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and the D.C. Council had no role in the decision regarding the merger. A spokeswoman for Bowser told the AFRO that “the mayor supports what is best for the residents and ratepayers of the District of Columbia.”

While the mayor was publicly neutral on the merger, six members of the council expressed reservations about it as well as 26 of the city’s 40 advisory neighborhood commissions. Another strong opponent of the merger, Sandra Mattavous-Frye, the people’s counsel of the Office of the People’s Counsel in the District of Columbia, which represents District ratepayers before the public service commission and federal regulatory agencies, was elated about the decision.

“I opposed this merger application because it failed to provide any meaningful benefits to D.C. consumers and the public service commission did what was in the best interest of D.C. ratepayers and denied this proposed merger,” Mattavous-Frye said. “This is a watershed moment for the District as Pepco’s local leadership and jobs that lead to the middle class remain in place and our established environmental agenda can be advanced.”

POWER DC is an umbrella organization of groups who opposed the merger. One of the most prominent of those groups was the D.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club. Its chairman, Matthew Gravatt, was pleased with the merger’s rejection. “This is a major victory for the grassroots,” Gravatt said. “The Sierra Club’s work to highlight the environmental and community impacts of the proposed merger was a key part to this win.”

Exelon and Pepco leaders have less than 30 days to ask the public service commission to reconsider its decision. A spokeswoman for the public service commission told the AFRO on Aug. 31 that no paperwork has been filed by the merger partners at press time.