Sunday, November 19, 2017

Opposing Parties: Require a New Merger Application

By Suzanne Herel

The D.C. Public Service Commission should not reopen the record to consider a newly reached settlement in Exelon’s proposed $6.8 billion takeover of Pepco Holdings Inc., parties opposed to the deal said in a filing Friday.

PSC rules prohibit settlements to be submitted after a final decision, the group said, referring to the commission’s Aug. 25 rejection of the merger as not in the public interest. The group argued that the commission should require the companies to file a new application.

The group represents DC Solar United Neighborhoods, Grid 2.0 Working Group, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition and Maryland DC Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association.

The settlement, brokered by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration, was filed Oct. 6 in an attempt to persuade the commissioners to approve the deal, which has been approved by FERC, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. (See Mayor’s Settlement Puts DC PSC on the Spot in Exelon-Pepco Deal.)

Regardless of the agreement, the filing said, “the public continues to share the commission’s concern that the ‘potential conflicts of interest inherent in Pepco’s role and its parent company’s policy positions and interests might inhibit our local distribution company from moving forward to embrace a cleaner and greener environment.’”

The prevailing concern involves Exelon’s commitment to its generation assets, in particular to its partly struggling nuclear fleet.

To shore up that point, the filing includes more than 800 emails from district residents opposing the merger, most using a template letter saying in part, “I am dismayed by the D.C. government’s behind-the-scenes Exelon settlement. Their secretive process took place over the objection of the majority of D.C. ratepayers. … Your unanimous ruling against the merger, and the thorough process that preceded it, restored faith in the district’s democratic institutions. Anything less than a full process now would deprive D.C. residents of our due process rights.”

The petitioners acknowledge that the commission has the right to waive its own rules, but they advised it not do so because of the unprecedented interest the case has drawn — more than 3,000 commenters, the most in the agency’s more than century-old existence.

“Many of the interested customers or groups have justifiably relied on the formal parties to present and champion their positions, including particularly the District of Columbia government and the Office of the People’s Counsel,” the filing said. “Now, both the district government and OPC have acceded to the terms that the joint applicants offered, so they no longer reliably represent the views of residential customers or groups that are unwilling to concede to Exelon.

“The realignment of some parties with Exelon and Pepco effectively muffles the public’s voice in any proceeding that merely reopens the existing case and that does not give other interested individuals or organizations a full opportunity to participate as parties.”

They allege that reopening the case would set a dangerous precedent for future applicants seeking to negotiate a settlement only after the commission has highlighted the deficiencies in their filing.

Friday was the deadline to submit comments regarding the joint applicants’ request to reopen the case.

Also filing opposition was D.C. Public Power, which at the same time submitted its intent to buy Pepco’s district assets and requested to become an intervenor. (See Group Proposes to Buy Pepco’s DC Assets, Form Publicly Owned Utility; Exelon Would Keep Md., Del., NJ PHI Units.)

In addition, the Ward 3 Democratic Committee submitted a filing saying that the settlement amounts to a new proposal and should be treated as such under a new application.

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