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Blog: Power to the People!

A grassroots movement for electric service reliaiblity has swept Howard County. What Howard County's 'Reliability4HOCO' has done can be replicated anywhere there are 100 disgrunted BGE customers.

The Public Service Commission is sending a judge to Howard County tomorrow night for a night hearing on BGE's service reliability. It's hard to say when HOCO's reliability movement began but it might be after a handful of outages, including a couple of snowy days, in early 2011.  Sure, BGE came out and attempted to placate us, neighborhood by neighborhood, but we started preparing ourselves for the meetings with BGE by talking to each other.  Some of us even invited ourselves to other neighborhood's meetings, looking for subtle changes in BGE's message.  We started to vent and connect via Facebook.  Every so often, we'd get a tiny morsel of local media mention, and more people from more neighborhoods would post on Facebook, and so the alliance grew.  In January, one of our number noted an obscure section of MD Utility Law (3-102 (d)) that seemed to provide the means to trigger an investigation if a minimum of 100 persons signed a petition calling for an investigation into a utility's service reliability. Feeling like there was nothing to lose, a couple of us profiled the streets and subsets of our communities that are the hardest hit with outages.  We went door-to-door asking for signatures.  We knew we couldn't stop at 100 because we correctly guessed that BGE (and maybe the PSC) would comb through the signatures looking to throw out the illegible, the ones with nicknames when the bill had a formal first name, etc.  We turned in 321 signatures, with 280 being+ accepted, and triggered an investigation by the PSC.  A handful of us went to a 'status conference' at the PSC in late May where our petition got a case number -- we're officially case #9291 -- and learned we would get a night hearing at which those on the feeders of the petition signers can testify; a discovery process; and an independent review of BGE's current infrastructure laydown as well as any projects currently underway by the PSC's Engineering Division.  The petition to trigger an investigation is a simple process, and one of us associated with 'Reliability4HOCO' would be happy to speak in depth to anyone who wants more information.  Here is the wording of our successful petition; no need to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes.   

In accordance with Md. PUBLIC UTILITIES Code Ann. § 3-102, we, the undersigned, residents of _______ County, Maryland, call for an investigation by the Public Service Commission (PSC) into the lack of reliability of the electric service provided by BALTIMORE GAS & ELECTRIC (BGE), a public utility company licensed by the PSC to conduct business in ____County. We allege that BGE has had knowledge of the chronic outages occurring in many ______ County neighborhoods via automatically generated BGE data, but has only very recently and only in a small subset of the affected ____ County neighborhoods begun to work off some of the serious infrastructure problems readily and repeatedly apparent in the data. Despite some recent efforts by BGE, vegetation management has not been performed in a manner consistent with providing reliable service.  Despite the availability of and industry-wide acceptance of technological advances, such as the so-called ‘smart’ fuses, most affected _____ County neighborhoods have not been updated with ‘smart’ fuses and potentially other readily available industry-standard advances that might have improved reliability.  We further allege that despite years of outages affecting many neighborhoods, BGE’s restoration activity is determined by the significance of the customers involved and the number of customers affected, thereby consigning small groups of residential customers to repeated outages.  In short, we allege that we have been underserved and underconsidered by BGE over a long period of time, and ask the PSC to investigate and prescribe specific remedies. 

Your next step is to create a signature page with blocks for signers to provide the following information: 

- full legal name of resident (this should reflect the name on the BGE bill.)

- service address (not mailing address, if that is a PO Box) including street name & number, zip)

- day/evening phone numbers

- name of community or development

- signature/date

Dont' stop until you have at least 125 signatures.  Good Luck!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Emily Elizabeth July 24, 2012 at 04:13 AM
You're showing a pole with only cable tv and phone lines in the photo - there are no power lines on that pole so it doesn't belong to BGE. Try again.
Reliability4Maryland July 24, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I agree the very thin power lines are hard to photograph....but take a look at all the leaves at the level of the phone and comcast lines.....there are even more leaves and branches higher up.
Penny Riordan July 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Emily, sorry, that was my selection from our archived photos of downed lines after Derecho. Rest assured we have plenty of photos of power lines, I just wasn't be that scrutinizing in my selection.

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