D.C. residents gathered at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Clarke School of Law on April 8 to discuss their complaints about the ongoing Pepco, Exelon merger. The forum was orchestrated on behalf of The School of Law Environmental Law Society.

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The forum consisted of two panels, each missing an Exelon Corporation or Pepco Holdings Inc. representative, to ponder the question of whether the purchase of Pepco by Exelon was in the public’s interest.  “Its business model, when you put it in a technical way, ain’t so great,” D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (Ward 3) said. She was referencing merger problems for D.C. residents including its inherent conflict in the city’s progressive environmental agenda, higher prices, and lack of utility access with Exelon being headquartered in Chicago, Ill.  “I have no confidence that we will be insulated from price increases by joining with Exelon either in five years or later.”

Mary Cheh, chair of the Committee on Transportation & the Environment, was on the first panel along with Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service; Tyson Slocum, director of Energy at Public Citizen and UDC law student Jessica Christy, who spoke in the affirmative on the merger.

The panel’s discussion highlighted complaints that Exelon’s nuclear base would be a detriment to District residents, because it would shift all of the risk to ratepayers.

Cheh said she sent a letter to council members against the merger, but only Elissa Silverman (At-Large) and Charles Allen (Ward 6) signed it.  “It’s not exactly an even playing field,” she said. “I think it’s probably indicative of the situation to note that the two council members that joined are new to the council.”

The second panel spoke about reliability standards in the District. The panel consisted of attorney and Georgetown Law Professor Scott Hempling, D.C. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, Maryland People’s Counsel Paula Carmody, and American Institute President Diana Moss.

“First of all, the Public Service Commission has stringent electric reliability standards and ironically or to my amazement . . . Exelon indicated that it could not meet the electrical reliability standards of the District of Columbia,” Mattavous-Frye said. “Now that was a nonstarter from the very beginning.”

She said that even though Exelon later said they could meet the standards without raising ratepayer costs, there was “really no commitment.”

In response to the forum missing a voice from either Pepco or Exelon, Myra Oppel, regional communications vice president for Pepco Holdings Inc. told the AFRO in an email on April 14.  “For the past year, Pepco and Exelon have been speaking to groups throughout the District about the companies’ proposed merger, and we are happy to participate in any debate where equal consideration is given to both sides.”

Oppel said the organizers originally decided to not include Pepco or Exelon on the panels, but later asked Pepco if they would provide a representative. “While we appreciated the law school’s reconsideration and offer to allow a singular Pepco representative, we did not believe the remaining conditions placed on pro-merger participation or the design of the forum would allow for a fair and balanced discussion of the merger.”