Undergrounding Power Lines
Over the next eight days, July 21 through July 29, the District’s Public Service Commission will be holding community hearings to receive comments from the public on the first three-year phase (2015-2017) of Pepco’s and DDOT’s plan to underground certain electrical power lines and fund the one billion dollar project through a surcharge to be assessed against Pepco customers. The goal of the project is to address the problem of power outages in DC and to improve the reliability of electrical service. During the first three years of the project, from 2015 through 2017, forty-five electric distribution feeder lines located on poles in Wards 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 will be put underground.
Background information on power line undergrounding is posted on the web site of the City Administrator at http://www.oca.dc.gov and http://www.oca.dc.gov/page/power-line-undergrounding, and on the web site of the Public Service Commission under Formal Case No. 1116, http://www.dcpsc.org/esr/Pepco_DDOT_ApplicationApproval_FC1116.asp. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests to the PSC, Pepco, the City Administrator, and the mayor, the PSC and Pepco are indentifying the locations at which work will take place only by the numbers of Pepco feeder lines, the primary electrical service distribution lines, and not by street addresses. As a result, citizens and businesses cannot make informed comments on the plans, because they won’t know the extent to which the plans will affect them and their neighborhoods.
The schedule of community meetings is July 21, 10:00 a.m., DC Public Service Commission Hearing Room 1333 H Street, NW, 7th Floor East Tower; July 22, 10:00 a.m., St. Columba Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW; July 23, 6:30 p.m., Kingsbury School Great Room, 5000 14th Street. NW; July 24, 6:00 p.m., UDC/Bertie Backus School, 5171 South Dakota Avenue, NE; July 28, 2:00 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help Panorama Room, 1600 Morris Road, SE; July 29, 2:00 p.m., Francis Gregory Library, 3660 Alabama Avenue, SE; July 29, 6:00 p.m., DC Public Service Commission Hearing Room, 1333 H Street, NW, 7th Floor East Tower.
Undergrounding power lines can potentially disrupt the daily lives of District residents and businesses. The current plan calls for the DC Department of Transportation to excavate certain streets, dig trenches, and construct conduits so that Pepco can install the circuit an electric distribution system underground in those conduits. While it is still in the planning stages, the public should demand specific information on how the project will impact their neighborhoods and businesses, including the exact locations and timetable for the construction work, who will supervise the work and respond to complaints (whether DDOT, Pepco, the PSC, or the Office of Peoples Counsel), and how the construction will impact streets and sidewalks and impede access.
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