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Montgomery County lacks power to take over Pepco's lines, county attorney says

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Photo - SILVER SPRING, MD - JULY 02:  A hand-written sign about local power company Pepco hangs on a pole in a residential neighborhood July 2, 2012 in Silver Spring, Maryland.  About 445,000 businesses and households in the metropolitan area surrounding the nation's capital remain without electricity three days after a deadly storm ripped a path from Illinois to the Mid Atlantic region. Almost 40-percent of Pepco customers in Montgomery County, just north of the District of Columbia, are still without electricity and the power company does not expect to have full service restored until Friday.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
SILVER SPRING, MD - JULY 02: A hand-written sign about local power company Pepco hangs on a pole in a residential neighborhood July 2, 2012 in Silver Spring, Maryland. About 445,000 businesses and households in the metropolitan area surrounding the nation's capital remain without electricity three days after a deadly storm ripped a path from Illinois to the Mid Atlantic region. Almost 40-percent of Pepco customers in Montgomery County, just north of the District of Columbia, are still without electricity and the power company does not expect to have full service restored until Friday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye,Montgomery County

Montgomery County does not have the power to take over Pepco's control of the county's electrical grid, the county attorney reaffirmed in a new opinion.

Because the Maryland legislature initially gave Pepco the franchise that the electric company still relies on to deliver power to Montgomery and Prince George's county residents, the General Assembly would have to grant Montgomery County the authority to effectively revoke that franchise, County Attorney Marc Hansen wrote in an opinion Friday.

The opinion stems from a request more than a year ago from then-County Council President Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, to explain whether the county could take control of the electrical grid and establish a publicly controlled power utility.

The issue has been contentious in Montgomery County, where several times in the last few years -- usually after major storms in both the summer and winter -- residents have lost power for more than a week at a time. Following each of these events, residents have turned out in hordes to complain about poor service from Pepco, prompting promises from Berliner and other elected officials that they would find a way to end the prolonged outages.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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