By DaQuan Lawrence,
AFRO International Writer,

After a summer of contested disputes and disagreements between Baltimore citizens and Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) recently ruled that service shut-offs for customers refusing exterior regulators are not justified. 

The PSC also approved an arrangement between BGE, a group of affected customers and other stakeholders that allows BGE’s residential customers to opt into having a gas pressure regulator installed on the exterior or interior of a single-family home.

BGE is Maryland’s largest gas and electric utility, and a subsidiary of the Exelon Corporation. In June, Thiru Vignarajah, counsel for Baltimore City residents seeking to alter BGE’s implementation of the gas regulators, filed a petition for a lawsuit against the utility company. 

Customers in BGE’s service territory filed several complaints with the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Division and joined the petition to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. 

In July, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution introduced by Councilmember Zeke Cohen, who brought BGE leadership, constituents and city residents together in multiple forums to reach a compromise solution, calling on the PSC to reject BGE’s proposed multi-year rate plan. 

Cohen applauded the PSC’s decision calling the decision a win for Baltimore City residents.  

“I applaud Chair Hoover and the commission for using their regulatory power to bring stakeholders to the table and develop a legally-binding compromise on gas regulators,” Cohen said. 

In August, the PSC held two hearings to deliberate on the matter. In their recent decision, the Commission ordered BGE to revise its practices to permit residential customers to choose whether a gas service pressure regulator is installed inside or outside their home.

The Commission also advised BGE to work with relevant parties to deliver a written notice to customers at least 14 days in advance of a gas regulator installation, giving them the choice of exterior or interior installation.

(Photo by Alexis Taylor)

“Today’s decision ensures that customers and homeowners get to decide the placement of gas regulators moving forward…and that all installations are performed safely. My office will be carefully monitoring our district to ensure that BGE complies with the decision,” Cohen said. 

According to the utility company’s Gas Service Regulator Relocation Program FAQs, the failures of indoor regulators can pose an increased risk over failures of outdoor regulators.

BGE maintains that it implemented outdoor installations of gas regulators because “outdoor regulators vent directly to the atmosphere, and indoor regulators require a properly installed, unobstructed and undamaged vent line to allow natural gas to be safely released outdoors rather than accumulating indoors.” 

According to BGE, regulators are needed because they “control natural gas pressure in your building to ensure that it can safely be used in standard appliances. An emergency shut-off valve is also nearby, which can stop the flow of gas in the event of an emergency.” BGE further explains that the gas meter is installed after the pressure regulator and measures the quantity of the natural gas that flows into the building.” 

The company adopted the default practice of external installation beginning in 2021, and complaints have since expressed discontentment with the optics, aesthetics and safety of external gas service regulators. 

According to BGE’s policy, the installations were [in] “alignment with industry best practices” and “regulators outdoors [enable] ease of access during emergencies.”Last summer, BGE released supplemental information on its gas regulator installation plans for Baltimore City residents. The utility company outlines the technical reasons for its policy and advised Baltimore City residents that they could paint or decorate the gas regulators if they were worried about aesthetics.