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Pepco comes under fire at Montgomery County hearing

Thursday - 7/19/2012, 2:41pm  ET

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Pepco's performance during the derecho is under the scrutiny of the Montgomery County Council, as well as customers who are frustrated with what they say is poor service.

Residents gathering for Thursday's council briefing brought signs damning the utility: "Numbers don't lie, Pepco does" and "Bad data, Bad Service, Bad Pepco."

They say they are aware there's not time for public comment at the briefing, but wanted to show their concern.

Pepco executives are scheduled to give post-mortem details of their efforts to get the power back on at the briefing in Rockville, but their work isn't the only thing under the microscope.

The council also invited the chair of the Maryland Public Service Commission, Douglas Nazarian, to talk about the PSC's role in regulating the utility - as well as other power providers - and holding them to an improved level of service.

Thursday's briefing comes the day before the PSC is expected to decide whether Pepco should get a rate increase in excess of $60 million.

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen says Pepco should not receive a 4 percent rate increase until the utility makes meaningful progress on reliability.

The congressman says ratepayers should not be forced to compensate Pepco for power they never received because of the storm.

Van Hollen also notes in an analysis conducted by his office that Dominion Power, of northern Virginia, had more than double the number of outages as Pepco at the start of the restoration effort on the Friday night of the storm. However, Pepco and Dominion had about the same number of customers who were without power the Monday after.

There will also be public hearings where residents will be invited to speak. Those dates have not yet been set. Pepco will have to go before the commission for a storm report review on Sept. 13 and 14.

Pepco has also taken some heat for its latest tree trimming efforts in one community, The Washington Post reports. The utility hired contractors to tackle the vegetation surrounding power lines in Rock Creek Woods, but residents there say those yoshino cherry trees -- the same iconic trees that draw millions to the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. each year - aren't the problem.

WTOP's Kate Ryan is live tweeting from the debriefing.

Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)