City Desk

Activist Asks D.C. to Get Tough on Pepco

Solar-power activist Robert Robinson is launching a campaign against Pepco, and he's got the slogan to go with it: "Pepco equals power outages." In a 20-minute interview, Robinson repeated the Pepco-power outage connection to me at least 10 times.

"Once again, Pepco equals power outages," he says. And there are a lot of people who would agree with him after this month's derecho, which left thousands without power in the heat of the summer. Following the storm, Maryland reduced a planned rate increase.

Robinson, a former chief-of-staff for ex-Councilmember Harold Brazil, is hoping he can harness some of that anti-Pepco sentiment within the District. He's got a petition at aimed at the D.C. Council, which he hopes will consider taking big steps through the Public Service Commission to shake up the utility.

Robinson's petition only has three signatures so far, but he's got big plans for it. His dream Council would block Pepco rate increases, absent any improvement in reliability; pressure Pepco to withhold executive bonuses until outages are reduced; and instruct the Public Service Commission to study alternatives to Pepco. Alternatives could involve setting up another utility to rival Pepco, selling off Pepco's assets, or stripping the company of its monopoly power, Robinson says.

But Robinson isn't expecting councilmembers to be immediately receptive to his idea, which are, to put it mildly, ambitious. He's also not sure whether Congressional oversight and the 1973 Home Rule Act could hamper his efforts. But as long as storms keeping coming to the District and Pepco keeps blundering through the aftermath, he'll likely find supporters.

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