By Michael Mariotte

On Friday, the District of Columbia’s utility regulators dealt what may end up being a fatal blow to Exelon’s bid to buy local utility Pepco and become the largest utility in the country. Or maybe not. In a complex decision that almost literally gave those of us in the room whiplash, the Public Service Commission:

• Rejected a controversial deal submitted by the corporations and DC’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser, and agreed to by several other parties. To which the whole room cheered.
• And then immediately after, the commission offered amended terms by a 2-1 vote. If all of the parties accept the terms within two weeks, the PSC would automatically approve Exelon’s purchase of Pepco, with no further review or vote required.

This set off a lot of speculation about how quickly or easily the deal would be approved. We are happy to report that hasty judgments that Exelon would quickly achieve victory are far from true. If even one of the nine parties backs out, the deal could be dead, or be subject to further review.

NIRS and the PowerDC coalition are encouraging DC residents to write to Mayor Bowser, DC Attorney General Carl Racine, and People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, urging them to reject the PSC’s terms and, effectively, back out of the settlement.

And there are plenty of reasons for them to do it. But first a little refresher on why this is so important for those concerned about clean energy and a nuclear-free, carbon-free future.

Exelon is by far the largest nuclear power plant operator in the country, running 23 reactors in six states and holding an ownership stake in two others, plus five shutdown reactors. Over one-fourth of Exelon’s reactors are unprofitable and losing millions of dollars each year, placing them at imminent risk of retirement. Given that nuclear power is the core of Exelon’s business, it is under pressure to boost its bottom line by whatever means necessary.

Hence, the company is pushing legislators and regulators from Illinois to New York to DC to deliver massive subsidies for nuclear power plants. And it has stepped up its attacks on renewable energy in the same fashion: blocking renewable energy legislation in Illinois for the last two years, and trying to kill federal renewable energy programs.

But Wall Street has also been telling Exelon it needs to shift away from nuclear power. And that is why, in 2014, it offered Pepco a deal it couldn’t refuse: to buy out the company and its shareholders to the tune of $6.8 billion, 25% more than the company’s stock was worth. Pepco was literally the best option for Exelon: with 2 million captive ratepayers, and adjacent to utilities it already owned in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Pepco would give Exelon an unprecedented regional monopoly.

The problem: people in Maryland and DC have been fighting for renewable energy and real climate justice policies for years. They knew Exelon would be a disaster for consumers and the environment alike. And with vigorous grassroots organizing and legal interventions, …read more

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