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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marylanders from across the state registered their opposition to Exelon’s takeover of Pepco on the final day for public comment on the proposed merger before the Maryland Public Service Commission.
From leading to higher rates, to undermining clean energy policies, to decreasing utility employee retirement benefits, residents sounded the alarm on a deal that would make Chicago-based Exelon our country’s largest utility company and give the behemoth a monopoly over the region’s energy market.
Public Citizen, along with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland PIRG, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Sierra Club, on Tuesday mailed more than 1,500 written comments on behalf of their members, spanning every area of the state that would be affected by Chicago-based Exelon’s acquisition of Pepco.
“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.”
The organizations are joined by hundreds of retired Pepco employees concerned about the security of retirement benefits under an Exelon takeover. Retirement benefits, other than a pension, are not guaranteed by law and are subject to being terminated at the employer’s will. 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.
“The retirees of Pepco have devoted many years of their lives to providing the area residences with reliable electric power,” said John Murphy, a former manager of overhead operations and maintenance for Pepco. “We were promised a pension and other retirement benefits by Pepco and we only ask that those promises be honored by Exelon if the merger is approved.”
The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel also strongly opposes the proposed merger, as does the Maryland Energy Administration. Both agencies have determined that the proposed takeover does not meet the state’s public interest standard.
“This merger would give Exelon a virtual monopoly in Maryland, putting rate-paying families and businesses at risk of rate hikes and poor service,” said Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG.
“Exelon is taking out more than $5.5 billion in loans and risky securities to acquire Pepco,” added Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “That means Exelon will need customers to pay nearly $3,000 each – on top of Pepco’s costs – just to cover the cost of the deal. The promised $50 one-time ‘rebate’ is nothing next to how much Marylanders ultimately will pay to join the ‘Exelon family.’ ”
As the largest U.S. owner of nuclear power, Exelon is trying to hedge against falling profits from its aging, expensive fleet of reactors. An independent report released last month by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a Cleveland-based think tank, concluded that the cost of those plants could be passed on to Pepco customers if the merger were to go through.
“Maryland deserves a better utility than Pepco, but Exelon will actually be worse,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Research Service. “We only need to look at what it is doing in Illinois to see what the future with a growing Exelon monopoly will be like. The corporation has blocked renewable energy programs and is holding them ransom for at least $580 million per year in subsidies to prop up its nuclear plants. Becoming the largest utility in the country with monopoly control over the regional energy market is great business for Exelon, but it only means rising utility bills, less local control and fewer energy choices for Maryland ratepayers.”
Exelon has fought sensible renewable energy policies, from legislation to expand community-based solar power in Maryland to the federal wind production tax credit.
“This takeover, if allowed to move forward, would give Exelon an even louder platform to oppose clean energy in the region,” said David Smedick, representative for the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We need to be working for policies to encourage more renewables and stronger efficiency standards, not fighting attempts to roll back the gains we’ve already made.”
Regulators in Maryland have completed their evidentiary hearings and are scheduled to make a decision on the proposed merger by April 8. The Public Service Commission in Washington, D.C., has pushed back its evidentiary hearings until late March. Both need to approve Exelon and Pepco’s proposal for the acquisition to move forward.
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