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Dec. 17, 2015

Exelon’s Hiring of Mayor’s PAC Leader Should Prompt Regulators to Halt Pepco Takeover Proceedings

Statement of David Arkush, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program

Note: On Wednesday, WAMU reported that Exelon paid the head of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s FreshPAC to lobby for Exelon’s proposed takeover of Pepco. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. General Services Administration filed a brief that makes clear it still opposes the merger, contrary to recent public reports.

With the revelation that Exelon hired the head of FreshPAC to lobby for its proposed takeover of Pepco, the stench from the mayor’s settlement with the utilities is growing so strong it may not be safe to breathe near the Wilson Building.

The mayor opposed the Exelon-Pepco merger for well over a year – until the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) rightly rejected the deal, saying it would be bad for District residents. Since then, the utilities launched an unprecedented campaign to overturn the PSC’s lawful decision. Those efforts included Exelon hiring the head of the mayor’s PAC to lobby her on the deal – someone who has no apparent expertise on electricity or utilities.

It hardly could be more obvious that the mayor’s about-face on the merger is about politics – and potentially PAC cash, as well as enriching former and current D.C. government officials who own Pepco stock – and has nothing to do with what’s good for District residents.

In addition, contrary to claims by the Bowser administration, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in a brief filed Wednesday noted that it still opposes the settlement. It is noteworthy that the GSA didn’t participate in recent hearings because the PSC set a schedule that was too rapid. That highlights another major problem: The PSC has put the settlement on such a fast track that there isn’t adequate time for it to be vetted. Even the GSA – by far the best-resourced party that opposes the deal – believed it lacked sufficient time to prepare for hearings at the fast-tracked pace that the utilities sought and the PSC granted.

Public Citizen has asked (PDF) the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to investigate the political activities surrounding the proposed merger. The D.C. Council should support that request, as well as investigate the matter itself.

At the same time, the PSC should halt proceedings on the proposed settlement until the investigations are complete. At a minimum, the PSC should permit more parties to intervene in the proceedings, and it should amend the schedule to permit the public and the parties to fully participate.

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