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Pepco Refuses to Apologize For Historic Power Outage

 

July 11, 2012

OurDC Testimony on Pepco’s Reliability and Restoration.

Submitted by OurDC

 

Lives and property were destroyed in last week’s storm; it was a natural disaster. People’s suffering, my suffering, my family and neighbor’s suffering, was compounded by the long days and nights without power in record-breaking heat. This, too, was another disaster, but it was not of God—it was man-made.  It was a disaster crafted in Pepco’s greed-filled board room.  Unlike the weather, this disaster was easy to forecast.  Three letters sum it up—P.I.G. Pepco Is Greedy. Pepco puts profit before people. Pepco’s $7 million CEO Joe Rigby, and his $18 million top executive team need to apologize today for their self-centered greed.  Joe Rigby, if you’re here today, I’m asking you to stand up and apologize for caring more about your personal bottom line than Pepco’s life-providing power lines. It’s Rigby’s Pepco that left our city unprepared for last week’s weather. Your compensation doubled in the last two years. You went from $3.6 million in 2010 dollars to $7.2 million in 2011. I’m sure your pets came through this storm in better shape than my kids.

If Joe Rigby sits here all day, he’ll make almost $20,000 That’s what he makes every day. At $40,000 a year, Joe Rigby’s salary could put almost 180 Pepco line workers on the job.

When Pepco’s stock goes up, so does Joe Rigby’s compensation; doesn’t it Joe? To make more money for itself and pay its shareholders even higher dividends, Pepco cut operations jobs, contracted jobs out of the district, and neglected to trim trees or restore equipment. The result? Tens of thousands of D.C. residents paid and suffered for Pepco’s negligence and selfish greed.

I’m here from OurDC. We work with people and organizations in communities across the District. Our mission is simple: We fight to bring good jobs to the District and to keep corporations like Pepco accountable for creating good jobs.  We have hundreds of supporters.

For more than six months, OurDC has brought hundreds of residents in protest to Pepco’s front door. We’ve protested at its headquarters, its four regional service centers, the Public Service Commission, as well as offices of some of Pepco’s Board members.  Pepco and Joe Rigby have been robbing our neighborhoods of jobs and good service for the sake of profit and we’ve tried to sound the alarm.

 

We demanded and still demand Pepco withdraw its $42.5 million rate hike, cut executive compensation in half, and pay its fair share in taxes. Instead of rewarding the second-worst utility company in America, we are demanding a $2 million fine for Pepco, due to its failure to invest in job-creating infrastructure improvements and for the pain and suffering it has inflicted on city residents.

To shore up its profit margin for its investors, Pepco bought other utilities. Instead of spending money on maintenance of current operations, they left us in the dark literally and figuratively

Here are some facts for you. Just Google the Security and Exchange Commission; it’s all there in black and white. Rate payer’s money clearly went into the pockets of investors instead of infrastructure repair and local job creation.

Since Wall Street crashed, Pepco has earned $1.2 billion in profit. It received nearly $500 million in federal income tax refunds during the same period. Had it paid its fair tax share, the city would have had more money to close this year’s $172 million budget shortfall. Instead, the council discussed cutting health and social programs. So in our eyes, poor, disabled and elderly district residents were being asked to pay for Pepco’s tax dodging.

In September 2010, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900 testified that Pepco’s decreased staffing levels correlate with the time it takes to restore power.  He said, as of 2010, the Operations Department was down by 40 percent over a 10-year period. At the same time, Pepco’s customer base increased.

Let me also point out that last year Pepco spent $1.2 million lobbying. I don’t know how much of that $1.2 million Pepco spent here at city hall fighting the appointment of Elizabeth Noel to the Public Service Commission, but I’m sure many of you heard from their paid guns. If you did and you towed their corporate line, you know who you are. Just know the people of the District are watching.

I’ve reviewed the hard facts of Pepco’s greed. Yet, what is most important is what it means to struggling families, the unemployed and the underemployed.  So many of my neighbors are out of work or hold on by their fingernails because they only make minimum wage. When the power is on, their electric bills are higher than their rent.  They are in this hearing room right now.

  • When the lights go out and food spoils, we just can’t run out and buy more groceries; we have to wait a week or two for the next check.
  • There is no money to take the family to eat at a restaurant day after day.
  • There is no money to take in a movie and get a break from the heat.
  • There is no money for a cool hotel room.
  • When that refrigerated medicine goes bad, you go without until you can afford to buy what Pepco’s greedy self-serving incompetence spoiled.  Who compensates me?
  • Who pays for my lost wages because I’m an hourly worker and couldn’t get my hours to make a living?

Pepco says it wants another $42.5 million more this year, which will add about $5 more to my bill each month. Well, I’m out of dollars. How much more of my money do I need to put in Joe Rigby’s pocket? At Pepco, greed, underperformance and job-killing cuts are rewarded with millions in bonuses and stock options, and they do it right under your noses.  When are you going to say No to Pepco?

Pepco shareholders should bear the cost of job-creating infrastructure improvements, and not be allowed to recover one penny from D.C. customers.

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