A proposed merger that would create the largest utility service in the country hit the skids after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser dropped support for the revised proposal, causing activists to celebrate, but the companies will still attempt to keep the merger alive.
Pepco, which services the Washington, D.C., metro area still plans to merge with Chicago based nuclear energy giant Exelon. The two companies will ignore a March 4 self imposed deadline and continue to work together to get a deal approved by the city, reports Washington Business Journal.
“The companies are now operating under the timeline set forth in the Commission’s Feb. 26 order, which requires a filing by March 11,” Exelon spokesman Paul Adams said in a statement representing both companies. “We continue to have conversations with the settling parties about the order and the new provisions, and will provide an update at the appropriate time.”
The D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) voted down the $6.8 billion dollar proposed merger February 26 which the Bowser administration fought hard to negotiate. The PSC then voted to approve a counterproposal, which defenders of the merger argue opens residents up to rate hikes and other risks.
“The Public Service Commission rejected an agreement that had the support of the Peoples Counsel, Attorney General, DC Water and others,” Bowser said in a press release March 1. “The PSC’s counterproposal guts much needed protections against rate increases for DC residents and assistance for low-income DC rate payers. That is not a deal that I can support.”
This is the second time in a two and a half year process that the PSC has rejected negotiated concessions from the city and utility companies. The latest deal rejected by the regulatory body included protections for D.C. residents against rate increases through 2019, however protections did not apply to government agencies or businesses.
The PSC rejected the proposal on the grounds that rate protections must be inclusive and cannot be limited to residents, severely undermining Bowser’s long negotiated proposal with the two utility companies. Activists have been celebrating what may be the end of the merger plans, however some are cautioning against easing up pressure, saying the latest merger news may just be more in the ongoing power struggle between the PSC and Mayor Bowser, reports DCist.
“I think it’s dead, but I’m holding my breath,” Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh told the DCist. “I don’t want to underestimate money, power, and influence.”
Bowser continues to defend her involvement with merger negotiations, which faced strong opposition within her own party. The mayor says the deal PSC rejected would have been in the best interests of District citizens.
“From the start, we focused on affordability, reliability and sustainability,” read Tuesday’s press release from the mayor’s office. “We pulled everyone together to negotiate an agreement that was a great deal for DC residents.”
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