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O’Malley Discusses Surcharge To Help Prevent Power Outages

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Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Governor Martin O’Malley takes a step toward improving utility service–at a cost to customers.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains the governor would allow BGE and Pepco to collect a surcharge from ratepayers to help prevent power outages.

Tens of thousands of Marylanders experienced expense and inconvenience this summer thanks to the derecho. The July derecho knocked out power for weeks, as did the 2010 “snowmageddon.”

“Every time we get a major storm, this area gets out a lot,” said one area resident.

There’s a way to fix that.

A task force created by the governor to fast-track improvements in the electric grid concludes that a surcharge on ratepayers, coupled with greater accountability from the utilities, might keep Marylanders out of the dark.

“Most of us would be willing to pay another dollar or two a month to avoid throwing out an average of $15 to $18 a month as we play roulette about the next storm and whether it will wipe out our grocery bill for the month,” O’Malley said.

Would you?

“Infrastructure? I’ll always pay for infrastructure. I think it’s a good idea,” said a resident.

“Some more, but it depends how much more,” said another.

“No. No, that doesn’t sound fair. That doesn’t sound fair at all,” said a third.

In fact, there’s a strong argument that the utility companies should be trimming trees and burying power lines with the money they’re already making.

“It would be easy and very popular for me to jump up on a box here and say, `Damn those utility companies. It’s all their fault; they were pocketing the money when they should have been doing this’ but the reality’s a lot more complicated than that,” O’Malley said.

“People are tired of this. Our lights go out three or four days ’cause of these big old trees,” a resident said after the derecho.

This is the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy debate.

It’s important to note that the surcharge would vary according to the area you live in and is mostly targeted at the Pepco service area.

The surcharge would have to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

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