Green Neighbors meeting notes 3/21/16
Attendees: Basav, David, Elizabeth, Delores, Nick, Ruben, Fritz, Catherine, Robert
Next meeting April 18 at the Petworth Library; Fritz will facilitate
At the end of February the Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected the Pepco-Exelon merger for a second time, based on very narrow technicalities. They said there’s no reason why only residents should get a deferral of a rate increase, and not government and business. PSC wanted control of the rate increase to divvy it up, not all going to residential. They wanted control of money for energy efficiency, etc. Blue Plains should be open for other bids. These didn’t address what the PSC originally said was the conflict of interest. Betty Ann Kane (Chair of PSC) dissented and said she thought the conflict of interest hasn’t been addressed.
Office of People’s Council, General Services Administration, Mayor Bowser, the Attorney General and DC Water have rejected the PSC’s settlement.
Exelon and Pepco have asked the PSC to: 1) go back to settlement they rejected, 2) accept PSC’s new proposal (impossible without other parties), or 3) go back to settlement with conditions PSC attached, with the condition to take the entire settlement amount and divvy it up how they want.
None of the settling parties have agreed to this. The ball is in the court of the PSC. They will make a decision. It seems like they should reject it again. April 7 is deadline.
Question: Why is Green Neighbors opposed to the merger?
Answer: Our group got involved in it because of Exelon’s record on solar. They have taken positions against net metering, in which a property owner installs solar panels and sells the excess energy back into the grid. Exelon has proposed penalizing people for installing solar panels. Exelon is also trying to kill the subsidies for wind energy at the federal level. Exelon is the biggest owner of nuclear facilities in the country, which gets huge subsidies. Then we found out about other issues: especially Exelon’s history of raising rates in other places, needing to make money to shore up their risky nuclear energy business by buying public utilities and jacking up rates.
When the PSC originally rejected the merger, the Mayor reached a backroom deal with the companies. The PSC was responding to that settlement.
Exelon as producer and not just distributor of energy is conflict of interest.
The Edison Electric Institute that Exelon is part of participates a lot with ALEC.
27 out of 40 ANCs have passed resolutions against the merger.
DC Public Power has formed to try and get DC to have our own public utility. Mary Cheh has done a great job in exposing the problems with the Pepco-Exelon merger. She also put in an amendment to have a study on public power. It was rejected but she’s going to introduce it again.
If DC rejects the merger it will be dead in other jurisdictions – MD, DE and NJ.
[UPDATE: On March 23 the PSC reversed its original decision and approved the merger by a 2 to 1 vote. Power DC is coming up with action plans in response.]
Guest Speaker: Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN)
CCAN proposes a Carbon Tax for DC. It would be a tax (or fee) of $15 per ton. It will gradually go up to $40 per ton in 4 or 5 years. (Time to give people time to adjust.) A few pennies per gallon for gas, fossil fired electricity from Pepco, heating fuel from Washington Gas.
Hundreds of millions of dollars will flow to the DC government, but the money will get distributed to DC residents. Every month every resident of DC – man, woman or child – will receive a dividend/refund/rebate. The rebate is the same for everyone. Most people will get more money in the rebate than they have to pay in additional taxes, but those who use a lot of carbon, which is usually higher income people, will have to pay more than they get back. (A small amount of money will go to administering the program.)
The goal is to get people to use less carbon – people want to do things that will help them save money on taxes – will encourage people to use less energy, switch to wind and solar, drive less, etc. $40 per ton is what the EPA has said is the social cost of carbon.
In the first year of the carbon tax a family of 4 will come out with about $160 more in their pocket – will get more with increasing percentage. It will be hard to stop this because people won’t want to get rid of it.
If Green Neighbors decides to support the carbon tax, CCAN will let us know what we can do. We will discuss it at our April meeting.
Groundswell has several new initiatives they would like to tell us about, including year-round residential wind power purchase opportunities, wind power for small businesses and non-profits which will lower their electric bills, and community solar.
We would like a representative to come to our April or May meeting [UPDATE: Nadya Dutchin from Groundswell will come to our May 16 meeting].
Idea about small business owners making the right choice by choosing renewable energy.
Bruce Monroe Park
Bruce Monroe Park is being turned into apartments. Green Neighbors should write testimony about why this park shouldn’t be turned into apartments. Green and open space are a public good that shouldn’t be sold for short term profits. Robert will put together statement for the group supporting the Friends of Bruce Monroe Park.
Railroad Energy Efficiency
The Council of Governments is trying to get more energy efficient, less polluting retrofits for several train engines in Union Station. These are the engines that go back and forth in the station putting other trains together, moving them in and out of position, not passenger or cargo engines. Green Neighbors will support this effort. Fritz will write a letter in support.