ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Pepco’s president pledged Tuesday to “put more skin in the game” to make his widely criticized utility company more accountable to frustrated customers too often left in the dark, saying he would forgo about $900,000 in compensation to try to restore faith to an angry public.
Joseph Rigby said he deeply regretted inconveniences and hardships to customers who have had to wait days for their electricity to be restored after some recent storms. He said he has told his board that neither he nor executive vice president Dave Velazquez would accept bonuses this year.
He told a panel of frustrated lawmakers that Pepco’s efforts to restore power was “unacceptable.”
“We’re part of this community,” said Rigby, who makes a base salary of about $880,000 a year. “We need to make a very strong statement to the communities that we serve that the two top leaders of this company will be held accountable, and going forward we’re going to have even more skin in the game.”
Dayslong power outages in Montgomery County just outside the nation’s capital last month brought outcries from a public tired of sitting in the cold and dark and being forced to throw out rotting groceries. Pepco’s slow restoration efforts both this year and last have prompted Gov. Martin O’Malley and lawmakers to compare utility reliability outside the nation’s capital to that of a Third World country.
“What’s going on?” Delegate Dereck Davis, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, asked Rigby during a hearing. “What is the problem with the equipment that we keep having frequent outages — be it in bad weather or good weather?”
Rigby said old infrastructure is the biggest problem, and that he plans to speed up upgrades there and in tree-trimming to improve reliability.
“I am committed to improving our reliability,” Rigby said. “It is my number one priority.”
But some lawmakers were skeptical.
Delegate Ben Kramer, D-Montgomery, excoriated the company. He said of all the complaints he hears from constituents, Pepco tops the list.
“I’m not a fan, and you’ll have to excuse me if I’m somewhat skeptical about this, suddenly Pepco’s come to the Lord and they see the error of the ways and now we can anticipate that Pepco is going to resolve issues that evidently have lasted for years and have been unresolved,” Kramer said.
Lawmakers have introduced legislation backed by O’Malley to increase utility reliability by directing the state’s Public Service Commission to establish specific reliability standards for Maryland electric companies. The bill also includes penalties for utilities that don’t meet the standards. The fines would be directed back to customers.
Pepco serves customers in Washington and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)