350 DC and a coalition of partners target electric utility Pepco’s outsized influence on District politics
As DC prepares for the 2020 DC Council elections, a coalition of local environment and justice groups is calling on all candidates to sign on to the No Pepco Pledge.
The No Pepco Pledge takes aim at Pepco, the capital’s electric utility, but also extends to include other fossil fuel companies, including Exelon and Washington Gas. Pepco is an investor-owned utility that exerts an outsized influence on local politicians and politics while offering poor and unreliable service to its customers. The Pledge takes aim at Pepco’s money and influence that has been repeatedly used to weaken the transition to renewable energy, even when clean energy legislation succeeds – such as the recent bill to transition to renewable energy by 2032.
The No Pepco Coalition partners, headed by local environmental group 350 DC, point to the 2016 Pepco-Exelon merger as one example of this influence playing out to the loss of customers. Pepco forced through a merger with nuclear giant Exelon, the largest energy conglomerate in the U.S., despite opposition by the Maryland Attorney General, elected officials and many local residents. Pepco and Exelon, however, worked together to turn the tide of the DC Public Service Commission, gaining an approval for the merger and a windfall of $25 million for Joe Rigsby, the now-retired CEO of Pepco, and another $5 million for David Velazquez, the current CEO and President.
350 DC also points out that while Pepco was working to influence politicians behind the scenes, they were manipulating local non-profits by threatening to eliminate $2 million in charitable donations if the merger was rejected. At the same time, Pepco falsely advertised a post-merger rate freeze for customers – which never happened, but also hid the true intent to offer only a small offset for 3 years before hiking rates.
“The No Pepco Pledge recognizes Pepco’s corrupt influence has no place in our community or our government,” says Nathan Park, an organizer with 350 DC. “Pepco uses its power and influence to block efforts to equitably transition the District to renewable energy, instead pushing proposals that grow their bottom line at the expense of customers.”
Last year, Pepco successfully lobbied the government to remove requirements for Pepco to sign long-term contracts with renewable energy companies from the DC Clean Energy Omnibus Act, which would have significantly reduced the District’s emissions and likely saved customers money. Pepco also tried to include provisions that would allow them to pass off the cost of energy efficiency upgrades to ratepayers and are now seeking a 3-year, 15 percent rate increase and 44% customer charge increase.
“Pepco works hard to increase their profits at all costs and that disproportionately burdens the most marginalized in our District. We know Pepco puts profit over people and we say enough is enough” says 350 DC organizer Marli Kasdan.
Candidates for DC Council that sign the No Pepco Pledge agree to:
- Reject all contributions from Pepco, Washington Gas, and other fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists;
- Voluntarily disclose all meeting times and topics with Pepco and Washington Gas representatives and lobbyists, and take detailed minutes of all such meetings;
- Support legislation for a study, independent of Pepco and Washington Gas’s influence, that explores alternative utility models such as Community Choice Aggregation.
You can read the full pledge we present to candidates here.
The following candidates have signed on to the pledge: Jordan Grossman (ward 2), Daniel Hernandez (ward 2), Janeese Lewis George (ward 4), Kelvin Brown (ward 7), and Anthony Lorenzo Green (ward 7).
The No Pepco Pledge Coalition includes 350 DC, DC Solar United Neighbors, DC for Democracy and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.