As the date of the District’s public service commission decision on the Exelon-Pepco merger draws near, District political and business leaders are publicly expressing their feelings about it.
A spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Service Commission told the AFRO on May 22 that a decision on the Exelon-Pepco merger will take place on or before Aug. 25. Judi Jones, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 4B07, has been outspoken in her opposition to the merger.
“There is an overwhelming lack of support for this,” Jones said. “I don’t like the fact that a monopolistic nuclear power company will be in charge of power to District residents and businesses. Thirty out of 40 advisory neighborhood commissions have voted not to support this merger because it is not in the best interest of the residents.”
Exelon of Chicago plans to acquire Pepco Holdings for $6.83 billion. If it goes through, Exelon would control the lucrative mid-Atlantic power market and would also give the company financial resources to aid its ailing nuclear power plant portfolio.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland, approved the merger on May 15. Maryland supports the merger but has 46 conditions that largely deal with energy efficiency, relief for low-income customers, and the delivery of services.
The District and Delaware are considering the merger and for Exelon to acquire Pepco, those two jurisdictions must approve.
Residents had until May 27 at 5:30 p.m. to submit comments on the merger to the public service commission. Anthony Lorenzo Green, the chairman of the 8B advisory neighborhood commission, led his colleagues to vote against the merger on May 19.
“Our residents have a lot of concerns about this deal,” Green said. “There isn’t a lot of faith in Pepco as it is. Many of our residents don’t think that a nuclear-power company in Chicago will be responsive to their needs.”
The advisory neighborhood commissions as well as the D.C. Council have no voice in the merger’s approval. However, D.C. Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) opposed the merger earlier this year and were recently joined by David Grosso (I-At Large) and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 6) on that.
“I have concluded that the merger does not meet the “public interest” standard as required by the law of the District of Columbia,” Grosso said in a May 12 letter to the public service commission. “First, Exelon has a storied history of opposing commitments to renewable energy. Second, Pepco divested from its generation assets (which focus on financial growth) several years ago and is now focused primarily on the distribution of electricity to its customers.”
Grosso said, in essence, that he didn’t want District residents to pay for Exelon’s floundering nuclear power plants. Nadeau, in a May 22 letter to the public service commission, expressed discomfort with the financial benefit that Pepco shareholders and company executives would get as a result of the merger while there are no solid guarantees of rate fairness for consumers.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) hasn’t commented on the merger because he owns Pepco stock and D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5) is a former Pepco vice president and has therefore recused himself from the debate.
Jones said that there is one public official she wishes would take a position on the merger: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D). “She needs to take a stand on this,” Jones said.
The mayor, through a statement and in interviews with the AFRO, has said she is reviewing the merger and wants what is best for the residents of the District.
The merger has its supporters in the District. “A proposal that brings substantial and tangible benefits for D.C. citizens and economy, with no downside, should be pursued,” former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and Harry Wingo, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said in a May 15 edition of the Washington Business Journal touting the merger.
Williams, the executive director of the Federal City Council, and Wingo argue that the $125 one time rate credit, Exelon’s $1.6 million a year community benefits program and its promise to improve performance for customers merit approval of the merger.
“When you look at the facts, this proposal is good for residents and ratepayers and it is good for our economy,” the two business leaders said. “We believe that when the [public service commission] examines the facts of this proposal it will agree-and approve this merger.”