Monday, September 28, 2015

Hajj: Muslim Tragedy in Mecca - Mass Casualties and 2015 Hajj, Cause and Prevention?

[This is an ongoing story, so rather than constantly posting new articles, I will be adding updates as important new information is disclosed.  Come back from time to time!]

Once more the world experiences surprise/shock as another mass casualty event occurs. This time it happened at the annual Hajj event in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  So terribly sad that this event occurred almost simultaneously with the joy of the Pope's visits.  In the days since this tragedy, there has been little released about the facts in the case and more recent death statistics given the large number of injured.  Bitterness between Iran and Saudi Arabia is especially strong.  Especially as the death toll for Iranians has now risen to at least 228, according to AP.

10/6/15 - This more recent report from Lebanese Shiites continues to view this tragic event as a plot to kill high level Shiite figures as the struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran continues.  Iran is still reporting well over 400 deaths.

On the other hand, Pakistan, which has received much aid from Saudi Arabia is counseling patience.  However, as its citizens become more and more frustrated by lack of information, they may have to be more assertive in confronting this issue.

[This just in 9/29/15--Don't know if true, but alarming if it is, report that death toll is more than 4,000.  Rumors of plot against Iran, and a number of conspiracy theories in the Comments.  Will keep watch to confirm or cancel.  Don't know reliability of source, "Press TV".  PTV is an English language Iranian source.  See:   Another source Albawaba, also posted:  This site, described at Wikipedia as "Al Bawaba (البوابة, Arabic for "the portal" or "the gate") is a news, blogging and media website[1] headquartered in AmmanJordan with an office in DubaiUnited Arab Emirates.[2]  ... [with] a full-time staff of journalists and editors covering the Middle East and North Africa region’s events and news."[3]  ]  Another Shia (Iran's version of Islam) take on this issue.  No telling how this highly controversial discrepancy on deaths will turn out.

10/4/15 - Finally an eye witness account that makes sense, from a Nigerian professor who saw the conditions developing that caused this disaster.  Apparently, security personnel were lax or absent in their duties.  Since the 2006 disaster, pilgrims at the stoning of the devil have been required to exit by a different route.  When a large group of Egyptian pilgrims finished stoning, they made a U-turn and no officials stopped them.  Pilgrims had already walked 13 kilometers that day, and the Egyptian camp was near the entrance but far from the exit.  People, including the professor, urged them to use the exit but these Egyptians refused and the terrible crush began.

I found several unusually thoughtful ideas in the comments at this site regarding accident prevention at all mass crowd events:
There are also lively and even vitriolic competitive comments here. Also as an Al Jazeera site, there are numerous cross comments by Muslims and non-Muslims.  The first quoted comment is by a participant in the deadly 2006 Hajj.

     "By the grace of Allah (SWT) I performed Hajj in 2006 when same type of incident happened causing death of nearly 400 and injured 700 , most of the injured had permanent disability. As an witness of 2006 catastrophe I want to share my experience as follows.
After finishing the rituals at Arafat and Muzdalefa we planned to start stoning at the biggest Zamarat at about 8.00 AM . When our team reached the place close to the starting point we were stopped due to the fact that a group of dignitaries from some Muslim countries as royal guest of KSA were stoning and a barricade was created by Saudi police. I observed from the distance that STOP sign with different language including Bangla was flushing.
     After about three hours , when a huge crowed of Hajjis gathered , the barricade was withdrawn and suddenly a big crowd jumped into towards” One pathway” ignoring the Stop sign ( Subsequently it was increased to 3/4 levels pathways ) to perform the ritual and within few minutes hundreds of people were stampeded and injured. Even in my team some Hajjis was so enthusiastic and emotional to start running but by the will of Allah, with my intervention they were finally stopped. After further few hours when the bodies of deceased and injured were removed we finished stoning and went to Mecca for Towaf e Ziarat safely.
     Now I find a relationship between these two catastrophes that “ halting the flow of Hajjis for any reason ( as happened during 2006) created panic among them due to the time constraint of finishing stoning and going to Mekka for Tawaf within stipulated time was a great factor causing these two saddest incident.
     Whatever comes out of the investigation , as a normal Muslim, it is my humble suggestion that if the Hajj authority can not avoid stoning at Zamarat separately by the so called high profile dignitaries , ( though , I am not sure permissibility of such in Islam ) they can make an alternate Entry and Exit for them either by constructing Rope way/Gondola or a hanging Helipad , so that those people can perform the ritual without closing any Entry or Exit point to the Zamarat. Even a separate level designated to those type of Hajjis, on safety reason, may be created.
     In addition a awareness training has to be made effective at all levels involving the Hajj pilgrims so that this Fard ritual is performed in safe and logical way to ensure acceptance of Allah (SWT). May Allah bestow His profound mercy to the deceased , the injured and consolation to the members who lost their nearest and dearest one. Ameen."

JOE SOPRANO to Muhammed,
     "if I summarize your point, you associate the risk of stampedes with two main factors:
1) privilege given to dignitaries to execute the stoning before the others;
2) strong excitement and a general lack of discipline or self-control of the pilgrims.
     However substantial these points are (and precious, since they come from your direct experience of the Hajj), we are forced to acknowledge that both are quite difficult and sensitive to handle:
1) would require to change UAE into a liberal democracy with no political and social privilege and with a global equality of people, included in the religious domain;
2) would require a global improvement of education standards in the Muslim world.
     The first point should involve a political reformism or a factual revolution in the Saudi kingdom.
     The second point would imply higher rates of access to education in Muslim world, which could not go without the spread of gender policies and a global improvement of women social conditions in the same countries.
     Both are real needs; both are unfortunately not ready to occur within a short space of time.  But let’s hope that progresses will move on, while gradual political and social improvements will follow."

CHRIS LEWIS (starting with 2nd paragraph)
     "Your first point - special casing for dignitaries is fairly simple to fix. The organizers set up their plan for the day, visually check that all the barricades/signs/routing are in place each day, and don’t change them for any reason whatsoever. If a dignitary wants to participate, they must either be in the same crowd as every one else, be able to access/egress without interfering with the crowd in ANY way, OR, you book it well ahead of time and integrate it with the daily plan.
     There simply is NO WAY you can change plans mid-stream with that many people. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a stoning ritual in Mecca, or letting people into a stadium to watch a soccer match. You just do NOT change plans once they’re running. If you do, people die. Full stop. Doesn’t matter what religion or what government they have.
     Your second point misses the point entirely. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Muslims. It’s the same “enthusiasm” you see in a lineup for the first showing of a new Star Wars movie, a black friday sale, or a new iPhone launch. The only reason why they don’t turn into huge disasters is because the number of people is hundreds or thousands of times less. These don’t just happen in Muslim countries. They happen in the US, in England, Singapore, India etc. During the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, 1400 people died in the crush of gifts being given out. During new years fireworks in Singapore, 250 people died. During a soccer game in Hillsborough England, almost 100 people died.
      Each a result of poor planning, plans that weren’t verified, or plans that were changed mid-steam. Hillsborough happened because the crowd was directed through an access tunnel, and the access tunnel gate at the far end was closed and they didn’t get it open in time."

My thoughts: We have just seen huge crowds greeting the Pope in an atmosphere love and caring for one another—no significant crowd incidents. On the other hand, examples are given of significant numbers of deaths at the stoning of Satan (significant pent up anger), sports events (anger and booze?), and a coronation with gifts distributed (poverty and greed)—negative emotions set the stage for significant death toll. More love and understanding needed worldwide.
     This article quotes an anonymous medical source saying that the actual death toll is at least 400 more than the "official" toll.  A list of known casualties by country is given with 140+ for Iran and 55 for Egypt.  Iran is very angry about this.  Pakistan has announced a variety of benefits for the victims and their relatives including, cash payments, hospital care, and Hajj trips for relatives of deceased.

10/1/15 - Iran claims at least 464 of their pilgrims are dead.  This figure is so much higher than what any other large country is claiming that I wonder if some Iranians have used the Hajj as a way to escape living in Iran.  This article quotes various problem for Iranians wishing to travel include passport problems.

10/4/15 - Five more victims raises Indonesian deaths to 100.

10/5/15 - With 92 still missing, Egypt now counts 146 deaths.

10/5/15 - Latest figures on deaths of Indian Pilgrims is 74.

10/5/15 - Nigeria mourns at least 74 dead, with 244 more still missing.

10/6/15 - While almost as many may still be missing, India now counts 74 fatalities.

As the crowds at Hajj have grown, performing all the rituals required in a limited time as Mr. Kahn  pointed out above increases anxiety and tension.

At this article you can see that the distance from the many tents at Mina to the pillars where the devil is stoned ranges from 1 to 3 miles.  It was over 100f that day.  Al Jazeera now reports "Saudi Arabia has given foreign diplomats approximately 1,100 photographs of the dead from last week's Hajj crush and stampede, Indian and Pakistani authorities said, an indication of a significantly higher death toll than previously offered by the kingdom."

Saudi Arabia is claiming that this 1100 number includes other deaths from natural causes and possibly the crash of a crane weeks earlier that killed 111.

The total number of miles/kilometers the pilgrims must travel ON FOOT is extensive and particularly hard for the sick and elderly who often are desperate to complete the obligatory Hajj before they die.
The map at this site along with the 5 day schedule of events shows the extent of what is involved. Eight kilometers equals 5 miles, so the 12 kilometer black and white bar on the left side of the map equals 7.5 miles. Imagine doing all that walking at 100f + temperatures.  In fact, some reports seem to indicate that temperatures were above 110f that day.

Perhaps it is time to think of having two Hajjs a year, with one at a cooler season especially available for the elderly and sick.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chinese Disasters - Environmental and Social Problems of Rapid Development

China has been struggling mightily to develop as a world power with a modern economy.   To a lesser extent India and other countries have been doing the same.  Unfortunately, it appears again and again that the ability to make rapid technical advances has the dangerous ability to outrun human advances in education, technical competence and perhaps even social consciousness.  The most recent major Chinese disaster is the monstrous chemical explosion and fire in the port city of Tianjin.  These photos show the extent of the disaster, and the link below with multiple videos shows the human response.

One video apparently by Americans shows reaction to the initial smaller explosion accompanied by joking, with one saying maybe a gas station explosion, which quickly morphs to shock and concern as the second and perhaps third huge explosions are shown.  Initial conversation includes comments with bleeped words, then fear with the second explosion and a comment about getting dressed (the explosions were around 11 pm), after the third flare, they decided to get downstairs.   The reports have all said 2 explosions, but this certainly looks like a third one with the talking continuing in the background from the 2nd to 3rd one so I don’t see how this could have been a repeat of the 2nd one. Also you see individual flaming parts raining outward like a fireworks explosion.

This is the first of a series of videos at this site.  Others have additional information of interest.  For example, China is well known for trying to downplay the seriousness of their disasters (more on this later), but one of the subsequent videos is critical of the flouting of safety laws forbidding construction of homes, schools, and hospitals within a dangerous distance of chemical and other dangerous sites.  Apparently there were serious violations here at Tianjin.  This video also reported 4 dangerous chemicals at the site.  Calcium carbide when wet (from firemen's hoses) produces flammable acetylene gas.  The second highly dangerous chemical was about 700 TONS of sodium cyanide, which in addition to being very poisonous also produces explosive gases.

Another video follows this one and while talking about the chemicals, this report in Chinese with English subtitles totally fails to mention the cyanide.  Finally, today (7-18-15), officials are admitting the seriousness of the chemical situation and potential danger to the public.  However they are also publicizing how they have their best people on the job to analyze and clean up the mess.  While continuing to suggest there is no cyanide in the air, people continue to report various respiratory symptoms.  Of course, there are many earth and water samples needing testing.

A following video shot from helicopter shows the vast area of devastation including masses of metal shipping container washed up against a high rise like pebbles at a beach after a storm. If you have not already viewed the photos in the first link, you may be surprised to see the vast number of new incinerated automobiles that will never make a Chinese family happy.  Another video shot shows a large water filled crater, perhaps 400 or more feet in diameter, estimate based on the probable 40 feet length of shipping containers nearby.  A television report on CCTV showed pouring of a huge concrete dam to prevent contaminated water from running into the river or harbor.

The death toll  is up to 112, with over 700 hospitalized and over 50 critical or serious. At least 25 firefighters killed and 1,000 responding. One person was rescued ABOUT 165 feet from the explosion point, but 95 people are still missing, including 85 firefighters.  On 8/23/15, dead reported was 123, missing 40 and over 600 still hospitalized. On 8/25/15, 135 reported dead, and on 8/29 147 total had been found. The death toll could have been much higher if it had occurred during the height of the workday.  Since the explosions happened around 11 pm, the daylight shots are long after the initial explosions.  After several days, the government has also expanded the danger exclusion zone for residents to almost 2 miles, probably because of the cyanide issue.  

Their chemical and nuclear personnel are also working quickly to clean up before the next rain.  Small fires continue to break out, perhaps because of the 3,000 automobiles incinerated with some gas in the tank.  In addition China is now examining industrial safety throughout the country.   For example, Sinopec, the company responsible for the disastrous Quindao pipeline explosion that killed 62 people 2 years ago, has been found to NOT have proper oil fire fighting personal on hand.

The most recent victims of this disaster may be fish, although some say that warm summer water might be the cause.  At any rate there sure are a lot of them in these photos.  A Chinese millionaire/philanthropist has been hospitalized for respiratory problems after coming to Tianjin to offer material support as he has done at other disasters.  Some admire him, others see him as a Trump like self promoter.  Here are a number of different stories.

This is not the first major Chinese disaster I have reported at this blog.  Here is the link to the extensive story on oil based environmental disasters with particular reference to the Qingdao oil pipeline in downtown Qingdao which devastated a mile of the city and killed 62 people in 2013.  The Chinese government and perhaps even our own so neglected this story that few here even know it occurred.  Given the controversy over the XL Keystone Pipeline, there was no doubt pressure to not cover this pipeline story while giving emphasis to the Lac Megantic oil train disaster that killed 47.  Billionaire Koch Brothers have pipeline interest and are fighting billionaire Warren Buffet who has oil train interests.  Their fight of course underlines the need to move to renewables quickly.

This link from the World Socialist Web Site describes the role of corporate irresponsibility in a number of preventable recent industrial accidents.  They point out that working conditions in China are notoriously dangerous.  In the first half of of 2014, 19 serious accidents killed more than 200 people.  This particular accident occurred 8-2-14 in Kunshan at a metal products company specializing in aluminum processing and car wheel hubs employing 450 with 264 at work then.  After 2 days 71 workers had died.  At least 186 were injured from this explosion probably caused by an exposed flame in a room filled with combustible dust.  The South China Morning post reported that "the dangerous, dusty work conditions...had been known about for years."  City work safety regulators had warned about the explosion potential be were ignored.

Some of these products end up with General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota.  Companies like GM flock to China to take advantage of low wages and deplorable working conditions.  A week earlier GM was praised for corporate responsibility at the 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Conference in Beijing.  Sadly, this accident demonstrates how meaningless claims of corporate responsibility remain.  The drive for profits overrides every other consideration including workers' lives.  Like other major factory disasters, locked doors contributed to the high death toll.  Tragically, these disasters only result in big corporations moving to a different supplier which employs the same kind of dangerous practices.

Two other aluminum dust explosion in 2011 at Apple supply facilities have also caused deaths and injuries.   Conditions there have been so bad workers have committed and/or threatened to commit suicide.  Foxconn's response to this problem was to install nets to catch them.  Chinese safety agencies have worked to urge better safety measures involving dust throughout the country.  Obviously, not as effectively as they should have.

At least 121 people died in the explosion and fire at a poultry processing plant in June 2013, where locked doors also contributed to the death toll.  Some companies employ children as young as 12, and force them to work 11 hour days with few breaks.  Samsung suspended business with one such company not because of the child labor, but because of the negative publicity.  Apple has also have problems with this child labor issue.

[There are a number of other disasters in China and elsewhere that I plan to add here, so sign up for my email alerts in the space below my photos or keep checking back for new info.]

Another tragic disaster occurred in Bangladesh when efforts were made to rush into cheap textile production.  This 2013 disaster was caused when too much heavy equipment was put in a building not designed for the weight. At least 1,100 people died and 2,500 more were pulled from the wreckage.  A story one year later reports on the efforts made and being made to rescue and improve their highly important textile industry.  Both business and workers are organizing to improve things, but the victims themselves or their families are still awaiting compensation. The wreckage is mind boggling.  Perhaps the world wide prevalence of cell phone photography will spark greater attention to these disasters and their prevention.

Washington, DC has its own local problems.  The most recent is the disrailment of a Metro subway train in downtown DC.  Apparently heat or other factors had caused the rails to spread.  Metro had known about this for a month, but the tracks had not been tightened up and properly realigned.  This is the same kind of human error that is causing so many accidents, disasters, and deaths throughout the world.  People in Virginia are urging that another Metro tunnel be built under the Potomac River.   This story written 2 years ago has almost 200 comments.  Given the rate at which we are having major breakdowns, a second tunnel is probably a wise idea.  Imagine the chaos in working Washington, if people could not get to and from DC and VA by Metro for days or weeks.  Here is one idea for adding another tunnel.

We also have potential problems with the CSX tunnel reconstruction here in DC as illustrated by this Homeland Security official report on the Howard Tunnel fire in Baltimore in 2001.  This link gives details on the 2010 removal of 13 derailed cars from the Howard Tunnel by CSX.  There are also a number of other CSX and rail problems at this link.  DC folk have not been shy about expressing their concerns for our local CSX tunnel work.

[More reporting needed on this issue.  Come back again for more information and links.]

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DC Taxes - 2015 Update: GOOD and BAD News, This Could Save YOU Money

As many of you know, I have paid special attention to the DC government tax situation.  By clicking my INDEX post you can find all the earlier tax related articles.  Having just finished preparing my own 2014 taxes, and comparing the current situation with earlier years, I now have the new information for that year.  We in the DC Statehood Green Party have struggled especially long and hard to bring tax fairness to the lower and middle classes.  We can now report some success.  However, our Council still has a long way to go to restore equity to our people.

In an email last week I called attention to the fact that even though our Council approved using some of the tax Revision Commission's (TRC) recommendations, even though they agreed to implement these changes in our Deductions and Exemptions that would put $85,000,000 each year back into our neighborhoods, the small increases they did approve were even less than the federal increases.  Since federal D & E rates are pegged to inflation, this means we continue to fall ever farther behind.

I followed through on my plan to check on the proposed tax rate reductions for upper income earners and businesses.  If you are a lower income earner, it may help you feel a bit better to learn for that group, those rates were unchanged from last year.  We will need to continue to watch like hawks to make sure the Council does not backtrack on the TRC goal of reducing the tax burden to the middle class.  At last year's hearings many were astonished to learn the middle 20% of taxpayers paid more than 11% taxes, while the top 1% and the bottom 20% paid near 6% taxes.

This year's Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) (Jan. 2015) report indicates the middle 20% now pays a little over 10% taxes.  Here is further information from DC Citizens for Tax Justice on impact of some changes. I read ITEP's information on tax changes in 2013 and 2014, but some of their information does not agree with the information on DC's 2014 D-30 and D-40 tax forms.  For example, they report a decrease in the UIC (Unincorporated Franchise Tax).  Having just calculated my own official printed 2014 D-30, I can report the tax rate was still listed as 9.975%.  I'm not sure why Chairman Mendelson reported at last year's Chairmen's Candidate Forum that he had helped reduce the business tax rate by 17%.  Perhaps this is planned for a later year or on a different tax form.  We will have to keep watch on this.

As I hurried to get my taxes sent off to the IRS and OTR, I decided to check out the District's D-40 Schedule H. Since in the past, the limitation of eligibility has been a maximum income of $20,000, I was not paying much attention to this particular issue. DCSGP's David Schwartzman has brought this up as an important benefit needing change. I was amazed and pleased to see that SURPRISE, I am now eligible for this benefit.  If I am now eligible, then it means many more of you could also get money back.

Even if you have already sent in your tax returns you can always file an amended return if it will give you money back.  This form has a Line 16a, which is, as explained in the General Instructions, is the place to include the Schedule H property tax credit.   You then explain in Part II that you are eligible for the Schedule H credit, and attach a copy of your completed Schedule H to your D-40X.   If you submitted the FR-127 for an automatic 6 month's extension of time to file your D-40, then you can include the Schedule H in that filing.

This new and GREATLY improved Schedule H  allows a Tax Filing Unit (members of a household/family/etc.) to earn a total up to $40,000 if under age 70, and up to $60,000 if over age 70.  If you are not living alone, you will have to study the instructions to see if total household income falls within the allowed limits.  There are separate calculations for renters and home owners. A simple Worksheet is provided for computing the Property Tax Credit. You:
1) enter your federal IRS 1040 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI),
2) enter property taxes or 20% of rent paid in 2014,
3) multiply that figure by 3% or 4% as instructed,
4) subtract 3 from 2. The Credit Limit is $1,000, and you use this or number 4), whichever is smaller as your credit on the Schedule H form.

As an example:
1) AGI = $24,000;
2) Property Tax = $3,300;
3) AGI times 3% = $720;
4) $3,300 minus $720 = $2,580. Since $2,580 is more than $1,000, you can only use $1,000 as the credit on Schedule H.

I wish I could have passed on this information earlier. I am providing links for the Schedule H  and D-40X Amended Return forms below. At any rate, THANK YOU Councilmembers.

It is too late to use with your filing due on April 15th, but you can always file an amended return if it will benefit you. If you sent an FR-127 Extension of Time to File, you can submit the Schedule H  when you file the D-40. Instructions are unclear as to whether you should submit the Schedule H with the FR-127 or only with the final tax submission. This should be fixed. The Schedule H Instructions say it is due by April 15, 2015. The FR-127 only says to submit full payment of any taxes due by April 15, 2015.

Here is the link for the fill-in version of Schedule H.

Here is the link for the print, fill out and mail Schedule H. If there are 3 or fewer people in your Tax Filing Unit, then you only need print pages 1, 2, and perhaps 5 (the Computation Worksheet).

Here is the link for the D-40X Amended Individual Income Tax Return.

Good luck, and please pass this information on to as many of your friends, neighbors, and lower and middle class earners that it could benefit.

G. Lee Aikin, DC Statehood Green Party

          This message was sent as an email a week earlier:

ATTENTION COUNCIL MEMBERS:  Last year the Council agreed to follow the Tax Revision Commission's advice and restore our Deductions and Exemptions (D & E) parity with the federal rates which we had in 1973 when we got Home Rule.  UNFORTUNATELY, it was decided to delay the benefits to our low and middle income workers by phasing in this measure over 6 years.  Of all the measures approved by the TRC, this benefit helps the working poor and middle class the most.  Please urge your Council contacts to speed up implementation.

DC BENEFIT falls behind federal benefit.  In DC the basic D & E benefit for a family of 4 is now $11,050, while the IRS benefit is$28,200.  DC gave a $250 increase while IRS gave $400 more in deductions.  For a single, DC is now $5,875, and IRS is $10,150.  DC increases $100, IRS adds $150. For a couple under 65, the DC figure this year is $7,600, while the IRS is $20,300 (talk about a marriage penalty!).  DC raised the benefit by $150, the IRS raised it by $300.  Thus we continue to fall ever further behind this benefit we had in 1973.  In other words Council gives LESS than inflation.

Does this make you angry enough to do something about it?  My next step will be to see what benefits have been given to high income earners and report them.  [See above for this info.]

Obviously, we need funds to make everyone happy.  So, here is one idea to raise money that should benefit all who might participate.  Anyone with a car already pays for ONE parking sticker.  However, some have a regular need to drive somewhere else besides their home.  They might be caring for a sick/elderly relative regularly, or managing/renovating a second property, or need their car for their job. 

So this idea is to allow drivers to buy a second or even a third parking sticker for the area where they need to spend other time.  There should be definite limitations:  1) not within a certain number of blocks of a Metro stop, 2) not within certain downtown limits, 3) not near sports arenas or Convention Center on days or evenings when there are events scheduled.  This still leaves many places where a person could effectively use one or more extra parking stickers.  They could only be used in ONE CAR so should not harm the parking rights of anyone else.  Surely a WIN/WIN for DC tax revenue and the public.  

If you would benefit from this idea, PLEASE COMMENT.  A Council staff members asked me if I had any idea how many might want to use this benefit.  I did not know the answer.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Solar Energy Revolution in Washington, DC Could Inspire the World

A Solar Energy Revolution for Washington DC
Guest post by Don Wharton

By conducting business as usual, we are unlikely to stabilize global warming below the two degrees centigrade required to prevent a dramatic global catastrophe.  If this limit is exceeded, the Greenland ice mass will eventually melt raising ocean levels over twenty feet. Ocean acidity would increase to the point that jellyfish may replace many if not most of the fish species of our oceans. Fully half of existing species could face extinction if we exceed a tipping point of no return. The last IPCC report noted significant risk to global agriculture that feeds humanity. More carbon is encapsulated in Arctic permafrost and in ocean methane hydrates than all carbon fuels burned to date.  A recent article in Science Advances, based on 17 major climate models, is predicting a mega drought for the US southwest and central plains.  The projected drought would be much worse than the current drought in California and the Dust Bowl of the 1930's.  It is simply not an option to allow this carbon from business as usual or Arctic sources to be added to our atmosphere.

Washington DC can spark a major impact by making this city an example of success for the world. Many people are afraid that increased energy costs will be needed to stop the worst effects of global warming. We in DC could show that renewable energy solutions cost less than business as usual.  If we can do this it becomes obvious it is an absurd waste of our resources to not go with renewable energy. Achieving such a price point would enlist natural market mechanisms to prevent an ecological disaster. It would also magnify economic activity in a way that can provide jobs, profits, and increased returns for governmental coffers.

This policy document will review the cost goals, mechanisms to achieve them, and the benefits of embracing the revolutionary change that has already been demonstrated by policies elsewhere.  DC is the capital of the most important country in the world. It is the logical place to synthesize best solar energy policy in a way that proves what is possible with the best governmental vision.

Cost Goals

By mid 2012 German rooftop solar energy cost had declined to $2.55 per peak watt on average for all roof top systems of less than 100 KW capacity. By December 2014 there was an additional decline to $1.43 per peak watt. This was doubly impressive since the decline in solar module prices was relatively modest in this interval. Most of the decline was in the “soft costs” of installation, customer acquisition, overhead, permitting, etc.

German installers are immensely experienced. The best are well known. The costs of acquiring customers are very low since most people know a number of people who have had systems installed. Word of mouth becomes very efficient with large scale adoption of solar. The average American costs are 2.5 to 3 times current German costs largely due to differences in soft costs.

The German experience was accumulated at the price of very costly feed in tariffs (FIT). Early adopters got long term contracts promising that they would be paid $.70 per kwh.  In contrast recent (late 2014) DC electric cost has been less than $.10 per kwh.  This incentive worked to create great economies of scale. A cost effective vision for DC would need to deliver the same efficiency without the long term cost commitments made in Germany. If that could be achieved virtually everyone in the United States with even moderate sun would find solar energy to be less costly than the grid based power they are now using.  Policy changes in the following areas should facilitate this cost effective mass movement to solar:

     Permitting and Inspection
     Utility interconnection
     Mass customer acquisition
     Large Scale Issues

Permitting and Inspection

Government services are often costly.  However, that need not be the case. Permitting fees are often a very profitable revenue source. If we are to maximize solar energy use, permitting should be a very minor or even near zero addition to the time, energy and costs of solar system installation. The German model across that nation is a simple on-line form that takes an hour or two at most to fill in. In Australia permits are only required if a building is zoned as “heritage preservation.” The American Department of Energy has their Sunshot Initiative that seeks an average total US installed cost of $1.50 per peak watt on residential roofs and $1.25 for commercial roofs. The DOE specifies the streamlining and reduction of permitting and inspection costs as a significant requirement to reach this goal.

Bonded contractors can be required to pass a high level of certification backed with mandatory legal guarantees to correct anything that violates code requirements. Such a policy may be adequate to meet the quality requirements now met by DC's current detailed governmental permitting and inspection process. If that is not adequate it is imperative that waiting in line, clerical interaction, and total time required be eliminated wherever possible. For example, Chicago has implemented a Chicago Solar Express project guaranteeing 24 hour turnaround on permits and a 25% reduction in billed costs.

Utility Interconnection

Solar systems installers are often frustrated with the quality of service, timing and costs of interconnection with the current PEPCO utility. In Germany there is excellent cooperation between utilities and solar installers. Installations in Germany can often be accomplished in a single week with two weeks as an unusual outside time frame.  Quick installation is seen as an obvious goal that is widely supported everywhere in German society. This reduces the management overhead costs required to track a larger number of outstanding projects. Management attention is focused on efficient completion of the smaller number of current projects.

If our society is to copy the German example, government will need to communicate the values that create that success. This means a short and reliable time frame for utility interconnection.  Achieving the desired success of distributed solar, requires real reporting requirements and sufficient financial incentives. Many jurisdictions around the world require the utility to assume the interconnect cost. This relatively modest cost can be passed on to all ratepayers without increasing the cost per kwh significantly.  Power consumption has always been highly distributed.  Utilities understand their mission of providing access to all consumers.  A solar energy future mandates that a widely distributed network of energy producers also be a central mission of our electric power utility.

Mass customer acquisition

Government should serve the common interest in areas where it can function more efficiently than the private sector. State level markets under the Affordable Health Care Act, with with their explicit standards and efficiencies derived from million of customers, illustrate this principle. Customer acquisition is extremely costly and inefficient for solar system installers. Only 10 to 20% of cost estimates delivered to prospective buyers result in signed contracts. This implies that between 80 and 90% of site evaluation, engineering, and proposal preparation is wasted effort. These costs then must be recovered from those who do sign contracts. If a government market platform can deliver pre-sold customers then this inefficiency ceases. The DC government has greater power to integrate many complexities into a single transaction which simplifies things for the customer and can eliminate most marketing costs for the provider.

LiDAR techology (Light Detection and Ranging) can be used to create 3D models of all structures and foliage in an area. Many jurisdictions have used it to create tools to estimate solar energy potential. DC Department of the Environment (DDOE) working with Mapdwell has done that for DC. This provides data for selecting the most promising customers and for generating proposed contracts based on a "not to exceed" price point.

Currently, given neighborhoods in DC create group buys which are then submitted for bidding. A city wide bidding process creates greater economies of scale and would enable a continuing market process to serve all neighborhoods. If DC continues to rely on ad-hoc group buys then the lower price points of the bidding process will continue to be available only to specific DC neighborhoods for limited periods of time.  DC needs a dynamic process that solicits customers across the city and offers them the current best price for that month through a group bidding process.  The goal would be to emulate the rapidly declining cost points of recent German experience.

Mapdwell had a $4.32 per peak watt projection for a sample DC system. That is a little over three times the December 2014 costs for German systems and is well above actual DC contracts at the end of 2014.  Neighborhood DC group buys are closer to $3 per peak watt.

Mapdwell projects solar modules with 16% efficiency. DC can specify 18% efficiency as a minimum standard without risking any significant increase in cost per peak watt. An important quality in the solar module industry is bankability. This means the supplier is a high quality manufacturer with the excellent financial strength required to reliably support long term warranties.


Local governments have several advantages over profit making financial institutions. Property related investments, such as solar energy, can be recovered through the real estate tax mechanism. This is called Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE for short. DC with its AAA bond rating can access money at the lowest long term rates. DC can directly fund the purchase of solar systems and recover the costs at a profit using the real estate tax bill.  DC can set recovery rates to generate guaranteed direct profit to DC.  The actual rate can be less than required by a bank reporting to shareholders. In addition any funds repaid as part of the real estate tax might be deductible from federal taxes.

There are complexities in the PACE mechanism that must be addressed because of a criterion set forth by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  FHFA feared creation of a claim senior to the first mortgage holder in the event of default. Preliminary evidence shows the arguments against PACE are not factually supported. The default rate for energy efficient homes is lower than for other homes. The added value of solar panels and efficiency upgrades are reflected in their market prices. The lower energy costs are a valuable positive that both reduce the prospect of default and add value that is at least equal to the investment. However, FHFA has placed restrictions on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac compliant mortgages that need to be addressed in any policy.

One solution is to make PACE related loans junior in default claims to the mortgages covered by FHFA policy. Vermont, Oklahoma, Maine and Rhode Island have taken this approach, as does a $230 million PACE program in Miami.  Commercial properties and residential properties with no first mortgages or non FHFA confirming mortgages do not require this legal option.  There is some modest increase in risk to the government where this junior status is allowed. This can be addressed by requiring more substantial equity above the first mortgage to get the best loan interest rates, and a very modest increase in rates to compensate for risk if there is less equity above the first mortgage.  Energy related loans can be senior to home equity lines of credit and secondary mortgages since they are not traded by Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. Another approach to PACE loans used in California creates a fund which guarantees payment of PACE related obligations in the event of default.  This avoids FHFA related risk in the absence of specific clauses that may exist in a first mortgage agreement and is working for 160 California localities, but is not the policy supported in this article.  FHFA dislikes this arrangement and may take future action against it.  It is mentioned here just to illustrate again that FHFA regulation is not preventing PACE funding.

The major competition to private ownership of solar systems are the various leasing arrangements that promise lower energy costs to the home or building owner. While such arrangements work after a fashion they have not provided the intensity of support for solar required to achieve the German success level. However, in order to compete with these leasing arrangements the government must provide comparable simplicity to the homeowner while taking advantage of all financial options. This means the sale of SRECS and provisions to reduce capital cost from Federal and DC related credits should be part of a single financial instrument. This would emulate the simplicity of leasing arrangements while delivering greater benefit to DC residents and the DC government.

It should be noted that the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), which encourages home energy efficiency upgrades, could use the above PACE mechanism to finance home upgrades more cost effectively.  Currently they can only use commercial banking services for this purpose. The actual funding may still come from banks.  If DCSEU acquires and vets the customers and handles all interactions through the real estate tax mechanism, it would be possible to negotiate lower rates for a PACE mechanism requiring zero bank interaction with specific customers or the risk of loss from those customers. As noted above, the AAA bond rating may make bonds a less costly source of funds.


Time and motion studies done by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that German installers are able to accomplish all installation tasks two to four times faster than US installers. No specific governmental policy will make US installers more efficient in loading trucks and getting material to the work site. This and other needed changes must be a side effect of highly streamlined governmental policies and a more competitive  market platform. We must expect that economies of scale and long term experience will allow US installers to emulate German efficiencies.

In the future, there will be specific additional governmental policy changes required to support installation efficiency. A major policy direction of the Department of Energy is their Plug and Play strategy. They  envision that people will be able buy small and modular systems from retailers. Such systems, if plugged into the grid with a standard interconnect, will become a commodity that reduces costs and increases functionality with a speed of change similar to PCs, cell phones and other consumer electronics. There are a good number of vendors attempting to provide technology in this marketplace. However, there are significant disadvantages with all of them and the required market scale has not yet appearing. We will need a more intelligent and a standardized grid interconnect. It is intrinsically possible for a home smart meter to recognize a newly connected device in the same way that a PC recognizes a newly attached printer or flash drive. The recognition could then be communicated to a central database with automated generation of all require permitting.  Current policies do not presently support this technology. Government should recognize that these changes are coming and be prepared to implement supportive policies as the opportunities arise.

Large Scale Issues

The German experience also demonstrates as solar energy becomes a more significant fraction of provided energy it will be important that grid managers have the ability to control the dispatch of energy from all providers. Solar and wind energy are intermittent energy sources.  Blending energy from various sources will be a complex engineering task as renewable sources increase as a percentage of the whole supply. In Germany grid managers make small changes to cycles per second to signal a decline is required in energy provided from the solar energy systems. If they did not have that ability the grid could be overloaded. The US will need to achieve similar smart grid capabilities as increasing renewable energy resources become installed.

Summary Policy Implications

The best governmental policy can greatly lower renewable energy costs. There are many important elements in such a policy if DC is going to demonstrate that success at a scale that will inspire much of the rest of the world. Government is not configured to earn a profit. However, the success advocated here will have substantial positive implications for DC income. Many homes will have the capacity to produce much more energy than they will use. If that power is provided by a leased system the excess power will provide profits that will accrue to and be spent by a leasing company chartered elsewhere. If it is owned by DC residents they will pay taxes on those profits to DC and spend those earning largely in DC.

If DC provides a large percentage of the energy used in the city with DC based labor, then fewer of our energy dollars will be supporting West Virginia coal mining and North Dakota gas fracking.  Meeting DC power needs with DC labor, skills and vision is an obvious advantage for our city.  This has the additional  benefit of taxes paid to DC providing resources to meet other needs of DC citizens. A strategy using the best of governmental policy is a win-win strategy that serves our local needs while providing an example of success that should serve as a shining example for all humanity.


German site with rooftop solar costs in euros:

Rocky Mountain Institute (three documents)
Can the Cost of Solar in the U.S. Compete with Germany?

Lessons from Australia - how to reduce U.S. solar PV costs through installation labor efficiency

Reducing Solar PV Soft Cost: Focus on Installation Labor

Chicago Solar Express project simplifies rooftop PV for city residents and businesses

Mapdwell web site for evaluating solar energy potential of DC buildings:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exelon/PEPCO Merger--Is it Good for DC Residents? Also questions at North Anna plant.

[August 25, 2015] VICTORY for the little guy.  Today in a 3 to 0 vote, the DC Public Service Commission rejected Exelon's move to swallow PEPCO.  The fight is not dead however as explained in these articles by the Washington Post, and The Baltimore Sun.  Exelon still has 30 days to propose more concessions, and build support.  Who might they bribe or coerce?  Don't go to sleep on this issue yet!!

[Sept. 18, 2015]  We are currently in the middle of a 30 days period for Exelon to try to change the minds of those in power in Washington, DC.  Here is a list with phone numbers so you can call you representatives and Mayor.
      Thank you for making your voice heard! As a next step, would you mind calling the Mayor's office and your Councilmember? A short script and contact information for the Mayor and Councilmembers are below:
      Hello, My name is ________________. I'm calling to thank Mayor Bowser/Councilmember _______________ to thank (her/him) for not settling with Exelon. Exelon's ownership of generation capacity is at direct odds with keeping our electricity costs low. Its demonstrated opposition to renewable energy and local control are contrary to the direction we have chosen for the District. You have my support in continuing to stand strong and uphold the Public Service Commission's decision to reject Exelon's takeover of Pepco. Thank you.
      Contacts: Mayor Muriel Bowser's office: (202) 727-2643
Chairman Phil Mendelson's office: (202) 724-8032
At-large Councilmembers: Vincent Orange's office: (202) 724-8174
   Anita Bonds' office: (202) 724-8064
   David Grosso's office: (202) 724-8105
   Elissa Silverman's office: (202)-724-7772
Ward 1 - Brianne Nadeau's office: (202) 724-8181
Ward 2 - Jack Evans' office: (202) 724-8058
Ward 3 - Mary Cheh's office: (202) 724-8062
Ward 4 - Brandon Todd's office: (202) 724-8052
Ward 5 - Kenyan McDuffie's office: (202) 724-8028
Ward 6 - Charles Allen's office: (202)-724-8072
Ward 7 - Yvette Alexander's office: (202) 724-8068
Ward 8 - LaRuby May's office: (202)724-8045

I testified at the recent hearing before the DC Public Service Commission regarding the Exelon/PEPCO merger.  If it was scheduled the same night as our President's State of the Union speech to discourage attendance, it failed.  The hearing room was standing-room-only for a good part of the hearing.  All but 5 of the 56 registered to testify spoke, plus more than 16 people who signed up to speak at the hearing.  There were a few more who spoke after I left.  As a point of information it is important to know current PEPCO stockholders will receive cash for their shares and no longer have any direct economic interest in our electric service once it is owned by Exelon.  Our DC Council appears to have washed it's hands of any responsibility on this issue.  Several members own stock in PEPCO.  More facts needed on this.

Here is a February 2015 City Paper article with many community comments on who on the DC Council is acting on or otherwise implicated in this Exelon/PEPCO takeover.  Several Council members worked for PEPCO or own stock and will profit from this development.  Commenter iDC has a lot to say about our new Mayor and this development.  This May 2015 Washington Post article points out that opposition to this merger is coming from Council members Cheh, Allen, Grosso, and Silverman.  A number of interesting comments with links to campaign finance sites, and the role of the WaPo in supporting this merger.

Among people who signed up at the hearing, 13 were against or worried, and 3 favored the merger.  I did not hear all the registered testimony, but the majority I did hear was against.  The only people favoring seemed to be those who worked for or owned companies that would benefit from potential Exelon contracts, or a few community organizations which had received grants from PEPCO for their activities.  These groups did not even seem to realize that Exelon made no guarantees of continued support, nor that its offices were far from potential community lobbying in Chicago.  Nor did they seem to understand how small these grants were compared to the huge potential cost to the entire community, all of whom will have higher electric bills directly or indirectly.

Do we really want to be part of a "too big to fail" organization.  One which in fact has a large, aging, soon to be obsolete nuclear component.  It would not be so bad if they were also embracing the need for renewables, and moving into solar and wind power.  Unfortunately, their record seems to be one of rejecting this wave of the future which could gradually lower energy costs and help cushion the ever increasing expenses for running their old nuclear plants.  Quite aside from the obvious increasing costs of operating aging nuclear plants, we must consider the much higher cost of any forseen or unforseen accident or disaster.

This link discloses the shameful details of the Fukishima nuclear plant cleanup.   Government auditors found that more than a third of the $2 billion already allocated for repairs and reclamation have been wasted.  Repeated and varied efforts to get rid of radioactive groundwater have failed.  After a recent typhoon (Asian hurricane), the radioactive level in the groundwater had increased ten fold.  Decades will be needed to develop successful technology and methods for the cleanup and more $billions will be spent.  Do we want to risk being saddled with such a cost?

Compare PEPCO's recent figure of less than 0.1% solar energy use with the exciting news that California now produces more than 5% of it's energy from solar.  After all our hard work to get PEPCO to use DC solar first, let's not throw our gains away by surrendering to Exelon's takeover.

Unfortunately, the people of California do have some issues with the CPUC (California Public Utility Commission).  This 23 minute video link regarding the retiring head of the CPUC, Mike Peevey, was forwarded to me by someone who read the testimony below.  Apparently he is accused of being too cozy with the utilities he regulates, and avoids important meetings with the state legislature in Sacramento, CA, as reported here.

Our take away on these reports should be to keep a very close eye on our own DC Public Utilities Commission, so that they do not make similar cozy mistakes.  Unfortunately, our DC Council did NOT vote favorably to add Betty Noel, a committed people oriented candidate from the Office of the Pouple's Counsel to our PUC.  I hope they will take heed of the many voices against this pro nuclear, anti solar merger/take-over that will be so costly to us the rate payers and reject this merger.

[I will be adding links, comments and new paragraphs as this story unfolds.  Check back from time to time for new information.  For example, research needed on how many shares of PEPCO stock are owned by our DC Council members and how that might affect their votes.]

Testimony Regarding Exelon/PEPCO Sale, 
January 20, 2015 before the 
DC Public Service Commission, by G. Lee Aikin

Thank you for hearing our concerns regarding this sale. You will be receiving a lot of valuable technical and professional testimony from experts like Anya Schoolman and Scott Hempling, so I will focus my testimony elsewhere. My main concerns are safety and especially how this ownership change would affect our environmental future.

After about 5 years of effort we finally have PEPCO working with the community to effectively distribute and bill for solar energy. We hope that within one or two decades local solar can provide as much as 20% of our electrical energy, especially in hot sunny weather when it would reduce stress on the larger grid. Since Exelon mainly produces nuclear and is paid for that, they have no incentive to aid solar. One pro-Exelon speaker said 900 new jobs would result from “merger.” With only 2.5% solar in DC we have 800+ new jobs. Imagine how many new jobs we'll have with 20% solar.

Even if protections for solar are ever written into agreements, we need to examine how well Exelon has kept past promises. Some jurisdictions have successfully negotiated demands favoring the community. Our Council is letting the Commission do the heavy lifting. How many Councilmembers own Pepco stock and will receive a guaranteed payout if the deal goes through? Have they/will they recuse themselves from key votes? People call buying out PEPCO stockholders for $27 a MERGER. It sounds more like PEPCO is being swallowed whole as by a snake.

Regarding safety, I was surprised to see that Exelon owns Three Mile Island. I will never forget the frightening week in March 1979 when we feared there would be a major meltdown. After Fukushima, we all have a greater appreciation of what that could mean. In 1979 my sons were 5 and 8 years old, my husband and I debated where we should flee and what we should pack in our car as the suspense continued. Fortunately this accident caused by a combination of equipment and human failures and mistakes was ended without full meltdown. The $1 billion cleanup ended in 1993.

In 2011 sitting in my bedroom, I was shocked as the wall facing me began to vibrate and shake alarmingly. We learned this 5.8 quake's epicenter was close to a Virginia nuclear plant which fortunately sustained no serious damage. Several friends nearby had chimney damage that needed professional repair. One participant at this hearing spent $1,000 having his chimney rebuilt. Our Washington Monument and National Cathedral have spent $millions to repair, for this rather small earthquake. I was in the 7.5 Mexico City earthquake in 1957. Walking home after midnight, my date and I clung to each other to keep from falling down as telephone poles rocked wildly back and forth.

Don't underestimate the earthquake risks in the US.  
* Charleston had a major (6.5 to 7.3) quake in 1886 and
* New Madrid, MO, monstrous (8.0+) earthquakes in 1811-12. 
* Boston had a major (est. 6.0 to 6.3) earthquake in 1755 within a month of the great Lisbon earthquake that killed around 50,000 in Portugal. 
* New York quakes in 1737 and 1884 were about 5.5 magnitude. 
Other more recent eastern US earthquakes include: 
* Kentucky shaken by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in 1980; 
* Arkansas with 88 quakes in June and July 1982, 4 between 4.0 and 4.5; 
* a magnitude 5.9 earthquake 1983 in Indiana; 
* Painesville, Ohio, 1986, magnitude 4.9 quake and aftershocks felt in 11 states; * Southeast IL had a 5.2 quake in 1987, and 7 quakes magnitude 4.5 or more since1892.

Exelon has 22 nuclear reactors at 13 locations in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Fracking seems to be causing quakes in brand new locations.

I don't think any of us want to underestimate the risk of encouraging production of costly nuclear energy, at the expense of far safer and less costly solar and wind energy. In fact we should do everything we can to reduce our dependence on nuclear and carbon based fuel sources. In 2013, 47 people were incinerated in the oil train explosion at Lac Megantic, Canada, and in Qingdao, China 62 people died when a mile of pipeline exploded in that city. 

For more information on the little known Qingdao tragedy, see my blog article titled: Prevent Future Keystone XL Pipeline Disasters Now.

Please, members of the Commission, don't let Exelon destroy our budding solar and renewable energy efforts. Don't let them increase dependence on potentially deadly nuclear energy. And again, thank you for hearing our concerns.

[May 2015 - An internet friend sent me this link regarding serious questionable practices at the North Anna plant, including the planning and constructions phase.  How many similar problems might we find if we examined each of Exelon's 23 nuclear plants.  We will be stuck with any of their mistakes, accidents, or shut downs for old age if we allow them to take over PEPCO.]

A comment at an article on the 2011 earthquake summarizes many important points:

    “As a one-time resident of Virginia (Richmond) it has come to our attention that the North Anna plant, because of cost-cutting, short-sighted, mendacious, bonus-preserving measures, decided to dismantle its earthquake/seismic detection equipment--which if functioning properly, would have shut the plant down on the onset of the quake.  [What record does Exelon have regarding maintenance and safety in its many facilities?]

    But perhaps even more alarming, the plant is built to withstand nothing greater than a 6.0 magnitude quake before extreme failure. The quake a few weeks ago in Mineral, Virginia, was a 5.8 quake -.2 shakes (quakes) away from a dog-day disaster scenario.  [As my earlier listing of earthquakes shows, 6.0 is a very thin margin of safety. I wonder what the rating is for even closer Calvert Cliffs.] 

    Indicative of the aging nuke plants around the country, North Anna's bottom line, profit-driven management would rather pad the salaries and bonus's of it's top executives and share holders, than protect the few million Virginians who live within a 200 mile radius of the plant (200 miles the new exposure standard, thanks to the Fukushima disaster - still ongoing, we should add). [A serious problem with Exelon versus PEPCO is that being a generating rather than a distributing company, we in DC would be victimized by any major economic damage to Exelon caused by nuclear accident, nuclear waste storage issues, etc.]

    The only potential bright spot in an otherwise gloomy national picture, would have been had the disastrous quake exceeded the 6.0 tremor rating and unleashed cesium, plutonium and strontium into the atmosphere, the Continuity of Government (C.O.G.) plans of moving...Senators and Congressmen/women to the underground bunker facility in an undisclosed location (somewhere outside Warrenton, Virginia) would have put them all in the direct path of said radiation release....” [Although the writer jokes about the welfare of our Congresspeople, the fact is that Warrenton is near a nuclear plant, and we in DC are even closer to Exelon's Three Mile Island and Calvert Cliffs nuclear facilities.]

A future concern for us all is the $3 billion proposal to put all electric lines underground. Our DC Council has already approved $1 billion for putting lines underground. This will be paid for by a combination of taxpayers and rate payers. In other words, all of us. Obviously, this will be good for excavating, paving and construction companies. We need to ask how much of the other proposed $2 billion needs to be spent. PEPCO has already done considerable successful work trimming trees that caused past storm issues. We need to know regarding remaining above ground wire areas where homes are far apart, is it hard to find the exact site of an underground outage?  When an above ground wire breaks, it is easy to find and fix the problem. How much more difficult and costly is it underground compared with frequency of above ground breaks?

This link shows a 1/16/15 letter from the DC Environmental Network urging DC Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson to SAY NO TO EXELON!

Anya Schoolman's testimony  on behalf of DCSUN, 11/3/14, before the DC Public Services Commission, 61 pages of testimony and 394 pages support material, regarding Exelon/Pepco merger.

Scott Hempling testimony to DC Public Services Commission on behalf of GRID2.0, 11/2/14.  He is a grid expert and professor at Georgetown Law School, 180 pages of testimony and 112 pages support material, regarding Exelon/Pepco merger.