Maryland lawmaker wants more public participation in PSC

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS - A Maryland delegate from Montgomery County wants to increase residents' access to the agency that decides utility rate increases.

Democratic Del. Al Carr told reporters on Tuesday that he will introduce three bills to open up the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Utilities in Maryland have long plagued residents with rate increases, frequent power outages and slow repairs, Carr said.

"Marylanders have lost confidence in our system of oversight of our regulated utilities," he said. "In many ways, the system is broken."

His measures would require the PSC to broadcast its meetings online, give ratepayers more time to examine and object to rate increase proposals, and allow consumers or nonprofits to be reimbursed by the PSC for experts they hire to testify against rate increases -- the same privilege given to utility companies.

Utility companies can hire experts and lawyers to testify before the PSC when proposing an increase. The cost of those experts is passed on to ratepayers. While he admits his legislation could drive up rates, Carr wants utility customers and nonprofits to have the same power.

The PSC approved an $18 million rate increase for Pepco customers in July 2012 -- about 25 percent of the $68 million the utility asked for. However, the electric utility came back in November 2012 and asked for an additional $60.8 million rate hike to help improve its infrastructure. A decision is expected this summer.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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