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Pepco asks for delay on rate hike decision

Tuesday - 7/10/2012, 10:49am  ET

Pepco truck (WTOP Photo/Kate Ryan)
(WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON - Maryland Pepco customers may need to wait longer to find out if their utility bills are going up.

Pepco has asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to delay its decision on a 4 percent rate hike, The Washington Post reports. The panel has been scheduled to vote on the increase this Friday.

The hike would increase the average residential bill by roughly $5.50, the Post reports.

Pepco executive Peter E. Meier said in a July 3 filing that the commission should wait on making the decision due to the severe storm in late June. The commission needs extra time to "remain focused on (the) important activities" of getting power restored, he says.

Even before the sudden derecho that left more than a million regional customers without power, the company's call for rate hikes drew a furious response. Protesters held a New Orleans-style funeral procession outside the Public Service Commission in D.C. in June to rail against the proposed $42.5 million increase.

"I can't afford the bill now," one protester said. "I have a family. I have two children I'm trying to get into college eventually. I have no money."

The utility company has become a regional pariah to some in recent years, following complaints of a sluggish response to power outages from severe storms and extreme temperatures. In late 2010, Pepco unveiled a six-point plan aimed at addressing these concerns, and pointed to trees as the greatest offender for bringing down overhead power lines.

Their subsequent tree-trimming efforts renewed complaints from customers, one of whom referred to the company and its trimming policies as "The Butcher of Montgomery County."

Pepco estimated some customers would go without power for up to a week following the early July storm. The company beat its own prediction, a spokesman said, and had 99 percent of customers restored by the following Monday.

Some customers' fury knows no bounds. Check out this song a group of customers wrote about the utility company.

You'll have a chance to speak directly to executives of the power company on Wednesday. Tune in for a special "Ask the Utility Executive" program at 10 a.m., and check back for a live blog at WTOP.com

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)