I could end this blog post there, but I won't.
In May, a Maryland PSC administrative law judge proposed ordering Potomac Edison to change its meter reading frequency to monthly and fined the company a piddly $25K.
That followed an earlier proposed order issued in April, in which the same ALJ said no harm, no foul, and did nothing to punish the company for its transgressions. The Commission pulled that proposed order and said it was "inadvertently issued." I guess the judge didn't check with his boss before filing it. Therefore, the revised order was issued a month later.
Now Potomac Edison and the Maryland Office of People's Counsel are appealing that decision, and basing it on the illegality of the ALJ's sudden change of heart. The OPC doesn't think monthly meter reading is a solution to a problem that has since solved itself, and that ratepayers shouldn't have to shoulder the financial burden of this company's despicable actions (or lack of action, as the case may be).
You can find all the above filings here.
I guess OPC has a point, why should ratepayers pay to fix Potomac Edison's failure? That's what happened in West Virginia, where meters are now read every single month. Buh-bye incorrect estimated bills and huge "catch-up" bills. Hello wacky bill schedule! Since a reading must be done before a bill is issued, bills are never issued and due on the same day each month. This presents a problem for folks who are only paid monthly, such as social security recipients, where they may receive two bills due within the same pay period.
But the anger is nowhere near that displayed across three states in the wake of Allegheny Energy's merger with Ohio dimwits FirstEnergy. Perhaps if Maryland's Staff and OPC had paid attention to the West Virginia proceeding several years ago, they'd know that the meter reading failure was directly tied to the company's post-merger actions. FirstEnergy insisted that Allegheny Energy toss out its perfectly good bill estimation methods designed to mesh with its alternate month reading schedule. It had been working in WV for 30 years. Instead, FirstEnergy insisted Allegheny adopt its own estimation routine, which was designed for missed reads in a system based on monthly reads. That's right, while it may have worked fine for FirstEnergy subsidiaries that read meters monthly, it did NOT work for Allegheny's bi-monthly read system. Combine that with FirstEnergy's "reorganization" of Allegheny's meter reading department and switch to "contract" meter readers who are paid less and must use their own vehicles, instead of a company-maintained motor pool, and disaster ensued.
Whose fault was this? FirstEnergy's!!
Only because of the scrutiny received in West Virginia (and to a lesser extent in Maryland, since the MD PSC was quite effective in preventing the customers from being heard during the heat of the moment) did the company take action to fix their mess. Because Maryland waited so long to actually DO anything, the problems are long since over.
Now Potomac Edison says their actions didn't actually hurt anyone in Maryland because there's nothing in the record. And there's nothing in the record because the MD PSC cancelled the public hearing it initially scheduled on this matter. Then shoved the case off to mediation for years. Then held a hearing. Then issued two orders FIVE YEARS after the damage was done. Justice delayed is justice denied, in this instance.
Potomac Edison also whines about the measly $25K fine the ALJ imposed. $25K probably wouldn't even pay for two seats in the FirstEnergy CEO's special "luxury suite" at FirstEnergy stadium. And yet this company has the nerve to cry like a baby over $25K.
So, hot potato passes to the MD PSC Commissioners, who seem to be responsible for the amended proposed order, so we'll assume it's to their liking. Who knows, maybe Chatty Chuck will invite the Commissioners to watch a game in his luxury suite! Woo Hoo!