Groups opposed to the merger between electric companies Pepco and Exelon said they mailed out more than 1,500 comments this week from Maryland residents also opposed to the move.
Public Citizen, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland PIRG, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Sierra Club said the proposed takeover of Pepco by Chicago-based Exelon would mean higher rates, undermine clean energy policies and threaten retirement benefits of former Pepco employees.
Wednesday is the last day for public comment on the merger in front of the Maryland Public Service Commission, the regulators who will decide by April 8 whether to allow the move and if so, under what conditions.
“Hundreds of citizens from all across Maryland are speaking out against this merger because it would serve the interests of a Chicago-based corporation, not us,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Where Maryland is working toward a clean, efficient, reliable and affordable electric grid, Exelon would move us in the opposite direction. Rejecting this merger should be a clear choice for the Public Service Commission.”
In September 2014, stockholders of Pepco Holdings Inc. — Pepco’s parent company — voted to approve the $6.8 billion sale to Exelon. Service for Montgomery County would still be headquartered in Pepco’s D.C. offices.
Exelon has promised the PSC the merger would mean cutting the frequency of power outages in Maryland by 38 percent and cutting the average outage duration by 43 percent by the 2018-2020 period.
In its approval filing, Exelon offered to be subject to financial penalties if Pepco or Delmarva Power (another of Pepco Holding Inc.’s utilities) don’t meet those goals.
Exelon also proposed giving $40 million to the Maryland PSC that “can be used as the PSC deems appropriate for customer benefits, such as bill credits, assistance for low-income customers and energy-efficiency measures.”
In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the merger. Virginia’s utility regulatory commission approved the merger in October. D.C.’s Public Service Commission has pushed back its hearings until late March.
Pepco and Exelon must get approval from regulators in each state or jurisdiction in which Pepco operates in order to move forward.
A group of elected leaders, green energy companies, local municipalities and others called for Maryland regulators to tie half of Pepco’s financial returns to the power company’s ability to meet a host of new performance metrics, including clean energy measures.
The so called Coalition for Utility Reform submitted its own testimony to the Maryland PSC saying it doesn’t think Exelon’s nuclear power generation business will bode well for an increase in renewable technologies from Pepco.
“We believe that the facts — which are available in the testimony we’ve filed with the commission and other information we have provided to the parties through the regulatory process — will show that this merger is in the public interest and will benefit customers and the community,” Pepco said in a statement in December.
But Public Citizen, a D.C.-based “citizens’ advocacy” group claimed “Exelon has fought sensible renewable energy policies, from legislation to expand community-based solar power in Maryland to the federal wind production tax credit.”
The group also quoted John Murphy, a retired Pepco maintenance manager, as saying the PSC should require Exelon to honor all promised pension and retirement benefits if it approves the merger.
“Any change in corporate ownership could result in a change in philosophy regarding the value of retirement benefits in retaining a highly motivated and skilled work force,” according to a Public Citizen press release on Wednesday.