Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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

[Feb. 1, 2016]  Even President Obama is aware that earthquakes are no joking matter.  He has just issued an Executive Order to upgrade protections in all federal buildings.  I hope our Public Service Commission will include this concern in their decision making process.]

[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!!  Come back to this post for UPDATES.  [11/18/15]  Victory postponed as PSC hears from large numbers of (bribed?) pro Exelon people at procedurally tainted hearings.  Decision likely in March 2016.

[Nov. 11, 2015]  In an effort to block the sellout to Exelon by our Mayor, a group called DC Public Power has formed to try to purchase PEPCO's transmission lines.  Exelon has admitted this means their appeal will not be settled before 2016.  As of 3 pm 11/10/15, I was register as witness #85.  I hope most of us are community witnesses, not the sellout crowd.   A number of groups are calling for anti-Exelon folk to come demonstrate outside and be inside as well.  [11/18/115]  Surprise, while paid audience members with printed pro Exelon green shirts, hats and signs were in the hearing room.  Members of the public who were not witnesses were kept in the lobby even though there was seating upstairs.

[Nov. 6, 2015]  Mayor Boswer and Exelon have worked out a deal (Tammany style?) that they say is better for us.   A telephone poll is being taken reading off the $million dollar "gifts" we will be getting from Exelon and asking if we are very in favor all the way to very NOT in favor of each "deal".  Don't let these paltry $millions blind you to the $billions this "deal" will cost us in the future, as Exelon and PEPCO officers and shareholders reap the profits, or their insurance from future disaster or shutdown costs at our expense.
      Meanwhile we have one more chance to stop this monster.  The Public Service Commission (PSC) has announced its one and only opportunity for the public to testify.  It will be on Tuesday, Nov. 17th at 10 am. I guess evenings allow too many citizens to testify.  Location is 1325 G St., NW, Suite 800.  Contact the PSC Secretary to get on the witness list (3 minutes for residents, 5 minutes for a single organization spokesperson):, or telephone 202-387-5956.  The email address might not include the first 3 letters (psc-) so make sure that whatever you send goes through.  We must convince them Exelon and its aging nuclear plants are a bad deal for DC.  Warm bodies are important too, so come even if you can't testify.  
      Another interesting development is Mayor Bowser's recent reappointment of the head of the Office of the People's Counsel.  This consumer oriented body is supposed to protect the public interest.  In the past it has NOT favored the Excelon/PEPCO deal.  How will it lean now???  [Answer - after the head of the OPC decided to favor Exelon, two weeks later Mayor Bowser decided to reappoint her as mentioned in this article on a whole lot of questionable actions.  The article also has many anti-Exelon comments.]  

[Nov. 8, 2015]  Ward 3 Council member, Mary Cheh met with ANC leaders who after her explanation of the down side to the merger, voted 27 to 40 against it.  Yeah Ms. Cheh.  Tuesday, Nov. 10 she goes to Anacostia Library (7 pm) to rally action from those least able to afford the higher cost of Exelon's aging nuclear plants.

[Oct. 28, 2015]  By this time there had been shifts in DC Council positions on the takeover.   This article from Utility Dive, an energy industry newsletter, reports that Briana Nadeau and Brandon Todd have now moved to supporting Exelon.  Chairman Mendelson and Vincent Orange, who both could profit from the deal, are maintaining distance.  PEPCO executives stand to profit $30 million with this merger as reported by witness Joyce Robinson-Paul.  Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, David Grosso, and Charles Allen continue to stand against.  The Utility Dive article also has the Oct. 16 letter the 7 pro Exelon Council members sent to the Public Service Commission.
[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

[May 12, 2015]  Here is a link to efforts by some Council members who are opposed to this "merger".  There is also a statement by PEPCO, saying why this is a good thing for DC.  At that time we did not know the huge payoff that PEPCO executives would be getting.

G. Lee Aikin, Testimony, January 20, 2015
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 site has a map showing current and proposed nuclear plants superimposed on a seismic risk map.  While Exelon has 11 nuclear plants in Illinois, 7 of them have their licenses expiring in from 7 to 12 years.  No wonder they want to own our rate payers.  Exelon has 11 or 12 other plants with other names and states at this link.
Braidwood 1Exelon   October 17, 2026
Braidwood 2Exelon   December 18, 2027
Byron 1Exelon   October 31, 2024
Byron 2Exelon   November 6, 2026
ClintonExelon   September 29, 2026
Dresden 2Exelon   December 22, 2029
Dresden 3Exelon   January 12, 2031
La Salle County 1Exelon   April 17, 2022
La Salle County 2Exelon   December 16, 2023
Quad Cities 1Exelon   December 14, 2032
Quad Cities 2Exelon   December 14, 2032
Clinton*Exelon   Proposed
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.  Solar jobs are a rapidly increasing part of the renewables mix.

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 People'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.]

[Nov. 17, 2015]  Testified this day at the PSC.  Over 250 were listed as witnesses, although I am told that one person called in and listed 70 people to testify.  Also there were a number of people wearing identical green shirts, hats and large printed signs favoring Exelon, and had been paid $15 (or perhaps more) to show up today and tomorrow.  This link has my more recent post on the Exelon merger issue with more details including this November testimony.

DC Public Service Commission Community Hearing,
Formal Case 1119
November 17 & 18, 2015, 10 am to 7 pm,
1325 G St., NW, Room 800, Washington, DC 20005

Testimony by G. Lee Aikin, 54 year DC Resident
DC Statehood Green Party

Thank you for hearing our many voices today. I previously reported to you my concerns regarding potential earthquake danger to Exelon's 23 nuclear plants. Since the 5.8 earthquake in Mineral, VA, there have continued to be small local quakes. In addition to owning Three Mile Island, Exelon now has interests in the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plants. Please be sure to check the earthquake standard for each plant that DC rate payers would help pay for should the worst happen as it did in Japan. North Anna, VA was built to a 6.0 standard, not a very comfortable margin to the 5.8 quake that did strike. It cost Three Mile Island more than $1 billion to clean up in the 1970s and 1980s. Far more in today's dollars.  [Added words of sympathy for Friends of Carter Barron which reported earthquake damage when testifying this day.]

Today I want to call your attention to the aging nature of the Exelon stable of nuclear plants. It has been stated it could cost $1 billion to shut down a nuclear plant. Two hundred (200) nuclear reactors are slated to be shut down by 2040 which could cost more than $100 billion for decommissioning costs. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns there are “considerable uncertainties” about these costs. Governments have limited experience with this as only 10 plants were decommissioned in the past 40 years. {1}

Looking at one specific example we find the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Southern California. Because of premature wear on important parts, in June, 2013, the complete closure of the plant was announced, to begin in early 2016. The Nuclear regulatory Commission believes this process will take around 20 years costing $4.4 billion. Do you really want to risk subjecting us all to those kinds of costs? {1}

Much credit is given by the nuclear folks to the lack of air pollution compared with coal, oil, and gas. However, a major issue facing decommissioning is storage of nuclear waste left behind by the plant. With so many plants about to be decommissioned, this will become a key issue. Most states won't allow these environmentally hazardous nuclear waste products. {1}

In Illinois, Exelon has warned they would have to close 3 nuclear plants “unless consumers chip in to reward them for producing environmentally-friendly electricity.” Recently introduced Illinois legislation “would create a financial reward for generators that produce 'clean' energy which doesn't create harmful greenhouse gases.” The ratepayers would finance it. {2} Apparently they don't want to acknowledge the environmental danger and cost of spent nuclear fuel. Do we really want to be under the thumb of a company which is already coercing the Illinois legislature to finance its uneconomic business model?

In the US, four reactors were permanently closed in 2013. “A glut of shale gas, government-subsidized wind power and slack demand slashed power prices more than 40% since 2008, making it hard to justify costly-repairs or continued operations of aging nuclear units.” “Given current economics with natural gas prices, it is very hard for nuclear to compete,” said Philip Smyth, a power analyst with Fitch Ratings.” {3}

Exelon's Clinton facility in Illinois is among nuclear generators that may be shut down from either political or financial pressure.” “Exelon...underperformed the S&P Utility Index in the past 5 years....and has seen stock prices fall since July 2008 [to 2013] by 62%.” In 2013 “Exelon was forced to cut its quarterly dividend for the first time amid falling electricity prices...” Meanwhile, Exelon has “projected about $900 million in additional cost for their reactors from new Fukushima-related safety rules over the next 6 years [starting 2013] according to regulatory filings.” {3} Why on earth would you want us to pay for that?

Exelon has 11 of its nuclear plants in Illinois, licenses for 7 of them are expiring in from 7 to 12 years. When do their other 12 nuclear plant licenses expire? No wonder they want to own our DC rate payers. {4}

Braidwood 1 Exelon    October 17, 2026
Braidwood 2 Exelon    December 18, 2027
Byron 1 Exelon    October 31, 2024
Byron 2 Exelon    November 6, 2026
Clinton Exelon    September 29, 2026
Dresden 2 Exelon    December 22, 2029
Dresden 3 Exelon    January 12, 2031
La Salle County 1 Exelon    April 17, 2022
La Salle County 2 Exelon    December 16, 2023
Quad Cities 1 Exelon    December 14, 2032
Quad Cities 2 Exelon    December 14, 2032
Clinton* Exelon    Proposed

While against this merger when I testified 1/20/15, after reading the links below, I am far more against it than previously.  Please read them.  Please don't allow us all to become victims of Exelon's corporate strategy and need to keep its stockholders happy. Your duty is to protect us the residents of Washington, DC.

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.

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