Stronger Penalties Added For Unreliable Utilities

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Making your electricity more dependable.  That’s the goal in Annapolis as lawmakers consider threatening fines against utility companies if they take too long to restore your power.

Kelly McPherson has reaction from customers and BGE.

January’s thunderstorm crippled major roads and forced families to live without power for days.  The Kelleys remember their dark 96 hours.

“We tried to save our food by stuffing it in the snow,” said Christine Kelley.

It didn’t work.

State leaders spoke out, promising that legislation could create accountability for these outages.

“You’ll have a legislature that has yet one more exhibit in their arsenal of evidence that Pepco is not guaranteeing the reliability and responsiveness,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

“It’s about time that somebody stepped up and said something to them because we can’t do it,” said John Kelley.

The state legislature is one vote away from approving a bill that would fine utility companies each day their service is below par.  Each day of darkness could mean 2.5 percent of the company’s gross revenue or roughly $2 to $4 million per day.

BGE’s spokesperson warns that the fines could be going toward improvements and may be counterproductive.

“If there is legislation that’s fashioned that’s not balanced, that’s not reasonable.  That takes more money away from our ability to invest. That’s not a good outcome,” said Rob Gould.

But those who braved several days in the winter have one idea to amend the legislation.

“I think they should pay it back to the people who lost their power,” said Christine Kelley.  “Because we pay regardless anyway.  Whatever happens, we still have to pay.”

The bill now says that the company wouldn’t be able to recover the fines from the ratepayers.  In other words, they can’t pass along the cost to you.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full Senate this week.

  • Doug

    As if the state was watching out for us.
    Our senators are bed partners with the utilities,
    The ten most feared words in the English dictionary are,

    We’re from the government and we are here to help.

  • Wheres common sense when you need it

    Boy ain,t that the truth. Now the Commission will pass a rate increase to cover the penalties. Please don’t let the revolution start without me.

  • nightsurfer

    Any suggestions that offer a better alternative?

    • Ken

      Buy a generator and/or make contigencies for when power is interupted. These type of events are going to occur. We do not need the government to get involved in this. We need less government involvement because we need to use more common sense. When rates go up because of this government involvement do not complain. What more incentive does the utility company need since they are losing profits when they are off the grid. Use soome common sense.

      • Larry

        You hit it on the button Ken. After hurricane Isabel left us without power for 2 days, i bought a generator—5500 watt. It will keep my heat/ac , refrigerator, and even a few lights going. Look out for yourself and your family.

  • Pete

    This is what happens when we rely on somebody else. “Dark 96 hours”? I keep candles at my house. A lot of ’em. I buy them at Goodwill. They cost about a quarter apiece. “We have to pay anyway”? No, the product comes through a meter. “Stuffing food in snow” ? A picnic cooler might help. They sell them at 7-11 for a couple of bucks. Folks in high rises have a bigger challenge. Especially when the elevators quit.
    The workers in 20 defree whether and 30 mile per hour winds are not fixing my electricity fast enough! So we will fine the company. Yes, that’ll work. We used to fine Beth steel for polluting the air. Remember Beth Steel? Oh, that’s right, they are gone. So let’s fine the power companies until they go under. Maybe we can buy electricty from China. Fines are not the answer. Until the power goes back on, the utilities make no money. We need the government to work with these people. Next snow storm does would anyone care to join me in climbing a utility pole in the snow with a 12,000 volt power line two feet away? ON four hours sleep? Come on now…. anyone?

  • cdad1

    pete sounds like you work the a utility company?? Care to explain why I’m charged a delivery fee in the summer for gas when I dont use any??

    • Robert Antreasian

      I agree with Pete, we all feel so entitled, its not magic that electricy comes to us, there is a phyiscal system that sometimes breaks, I think the state should own the utility company. Expedient politicians adn greedy utility company executives , create all those bizarre and misleading bills that take advantage of the user.

  • Robert Antreasian

    Should we get rid of utility companies, Do we think you can get electricity anywhere. Will having lawyers sue the electric company make the electricity get turned on faster? We should get rid of more politicians and hire electrical workers who can actually help turn the power on. and have better regulations in place, and maybe even have state owned electric companies

  • Guest2

    If the State fines the utility companies, they will only pass the fines on to their customers. They are as bad as the banks, or worse.

  • whatnow

    I want cheaper service, it is dependable enough now. Losing power for 2 or 3 days during a blizzard or hurricane is nothing and how often does that even happen in MD. Maybe all the whiners needed to grow up poor. I grew up with no a/c, no running water (we carted drinking water from spring up the street and carted bathing water from a nearby stream). We had an outhouse. We had a single space heater for an entire house. One year it broke in January and we couldn’t afford to fix it, so we went without heat the rest of the year. (notice no hand-outs mentioned here). You don’t even have to buy a cooler, just buy a bag of ice and stick it in your freezer/fridge and don’t open it every 2 seconds, flush with a gallon of water you can get at WalMart for a dollar. Cuddle up and sleep together with all your blankets. Or if the storm is predicted make your own extra ice and pour your tub full of water. I take water bottles and freeze them before a storm. Play cards or games when you don’t have a tv or computer. Gee, I guess people’s imaginations have been ruined by the constant technology. And now I will have to help pay for the increase in utilities so they can be “more dependable”.

  • whatnow

    To Pete: you have my admiration. My deceased father-in-law was a head electrical guy at Aberdeen Proving Grounds for years. I know the long hours and the dangerous work. I remember all the times he came home in an uproar because he had to get in a fight with some superior because he would not send his men up on the pole with the thunderstorm was still happening. And I also realize it isn’t the guys in the field that are getting the big bucks and raising my rates.

  • fred sanford

    bnk-rpt coming to a town near you

    • Lamont

      you know it pop…

  • Em

    It’s so important to be prepared! Especially with family. If I want a refund from anyone, it’s Comcast! They are the worst! Cable and net out for hours or days? I want it off my bill!

  • Kim Cluney

    Where else would the money come from? Their income is from customers, so if they get fined, it will come from customers. this is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard of.

  • Jonathan Chiles

    This state likes to spend money; so here is an easy alternative to fines. How about we put more lines under the ground. It is more expensive up front (Probably the same cost as these fines would cost, and it would be considered an investment)

    Think about every time the power goes out; power lines down due to ice? trees? Car hitting pole? The State could assist in a measure to bring down the cost of burying the cables. Like I said, this state likes to spend money, why not do it towards something that would be considered an INVESTMENT.

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