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Leggett, Council Spar Over Public Utility Discussion

Council to continue the investigation, though executive thinks purchasing Pepco 'not feasible.'

County Executive Isiah Leggett dug in his heels Tuesday at a meeting with the Montgomery County Council, calling the idea to condemn Pepco and municipalize the utility "not feasible."

The meeting comes just days after county attorney Marc Hansen told council members that to acquire the utility would mean going through the Maryland General Assembly and the Maryland Public Service Commission, as well as paying Pepco fair market value for its infrastructure.

"It was appropriate to ask the question, but now we have the answer, an answer that I think in many ways suggests that this is not a viable option," Leggett (D) said. "Now and for the foreseeable future, they will still be the utility. So we need to find a way to fight them, push them, and encourage them to do better."

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1), who has been at the forefront of the inquiry into how Montgomery County would go about taking over the electric company's infrastructure, acknowledged that it would take "a big chunk of change." But he said that it would be worth continuing the process.

"Nothing suggests that this can't be done," Berliner said.

Other council members agree.

"I think we're at the beginning of what will be a multi-year process," said Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large). "It's premature to for anyone to say whether it's feasible or not."

"Our next step is to ask for a memo from the Attorney General [Doug] Gansler," said Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large). "It's too early to interrupt a discussion."

While council members want to continue the discussion, Leggett said that the idea of a takeover is an empty threat to the power company, which has seen widespread and lasting power outages over the last year, and continuing the discussion would not lead to improved service.

"We went to the General Assembly last year and that was a real threat. We went to the public service commission, and that was a real threat," Leggett said. "For a threat to be effective, you must have a capacity to potentially carry it out."

Tim Fahey September 14, 2011 at 04:52 PM
I agree. They should brought back as a public utility and not as a private organization serving shareholders.
Pedsfs September 14, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Pepco should be held accountable to their customers, but the County has no business running a power company.
Peter Mork September 15, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Do you also think that the County has no business running a water/sewer company, or a road company? Utilities require significant coordination (and easements). As such, they need to be publicly run, or strongly regulated. (On the other hand, the County has no business running liquor stores---booze is hardly a utility!)
Moritz Reiter September 17, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Many counties across the US run their utilities with very little problems. Our problem here in MOCO is the fact that PEPCO is not an energy producer, they are just the middleman and causing us too many problems. If we are not going to run the utility, then the county and state need to have the ability to strong arm them into giving us the best possible service, which currently is a joke. The infrastructure problems we have in this state is enough work to put Marylander s back to work, yet we seem to be ignoring that fact and letting corporate greed control us.
Tim Fahey September 17, 2011 at 09:59 PM
@Reiter, I agree with you. Pepco will not fix the problem, except to cut down every tree in the region. In the meantime, they are keep the shareholders happy, while the customers have to deal with the inadequate upgrades to the system.

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