Pepco to testify over power outages

Pepco is facing heat for its poor response to last month’s snowstorm, after about 210,000 customers lost power when snow and slush coated the region.

Pepco will testify Thursday as to why more than 300 customers were left in the cold and dark for up to 5 days. The hearing was ordered by the D.C. Public Service Commission – which regulates electric, gas and telephone utilities in the city.

The company will also have to respond to questions about its tree-trimming practices, as fallen trees are often cited as damaging power lines. Pepco customers are 70 percent more likely to face power outages than customers from other big cities, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Pepco services both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses. The Mount Vernon Campus was one of the affected areas that faced power outages, with Cole, Somers and West residence halls losing power Wednesday Jan. 26 and Merriweather, Clark and Hensley residence halls following suit the next day, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. Eckles Library also reported power failures.

Power was restored by that Thursday afternoon, Sherrard said.

Bob Hainey, manager of media relations at Pepco, said the company put all of its effort into restoring power and began contacting crews the Tuesday before the storm to prepare, reaching out to crews from D.C. to Ohio by Wednesday.

Hainey said the company is 6 months into a 5-year reliability plan to upgrade cables, prompted by last year’s harsh winter storms. Pepco has upgraded 230 miles of underground wire as of now and plans to work further on the plan.

“It takes work. It takes money,” Hainey said, referring to the plan. “But we’re going to put our money where our mouth is.”

Pepco did not respond to a request for the number of outages at each campus over the past 2 years. u

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