Friday, May 09, 2008

Should Delmarva Power Pass Its Advertising Costs on to Customers?

The House Energy & Environment Committee yesterday discussed HCR 50, which would recommend that the Public Service Commission deny Delmarva the ability to recoup the cost of fighting the Bluewater Wind agreement.
Before it did, the committee first considered a bill that would reduce the the minimum size of lobsters that can be caught by 1/4 inch, and another that would mandate placing hunter orange on duck blinds. It's good to be reminded of concerns that seem so far away from Wilmington.
Committee chairman Gerald Hocker opened the discussion by declaring HCR 50 to be "one of the most anti-business" measure he has ever seen as a legislator. He said that the advertisements, which were calculated to cost 50 cents per customer, were a good deal in an effort to get the truth out about Bluewater Wind. Hocker is squarely opposed to the Bluewater project, and told me again afterwards that he believes the price of electricity will drop once the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway goes in. I think he's wrong, but he does have the courage of his convictions.
After a brief presentation by John Kowalko, members of the committee went back and forth on the language of the resolution and whether the PSC can already exclude these expenses.
Next up was Delmarva Power lobbyist Joe Farley, and he came out swinging. He said the company "had every right to tell customers how expensive" the Bluewater Wind project would be. (That of course goes to the heart of the matter; Delmarva Power is using its own, exaggerated numbers to scare us.) Farley continued by saying that a third party contract shouldn't be forced on the company's customers without their having any say. (Actually, Delmarva Power customers have spoken overwhelmingly in favor of offshore wind, repeatedly for a year and a half.) He concluded with the standard disclaimer that Delmarva Power has "complete confidence in the PSC." (He didn't mention that the company is using numbers that bear little resemblance to the agency's findings.)
Then it was my turn. I described the circumstances surrounding the production of the radio spots that ran this week on WDEL, and repeated the main point about Delmarva's exaggerated assertions. I said that our ad was paid for by donations gathered by Delaware Audubon, and represented only 0.75 percent of Delmarva's advertising budget.
Hocker asked me to speak to the point of the resolution, so I went right to the punch line: Delmarva Power's advertising undermines the integrity of the PSC process by ignoring the agency's findings and presenting its own version of the facts.
There's a difference between what Delmarva Power is saying and what I am saying, in this blog, in legislative testimony and in the radio spots. I am telling you what the PSC concluded, and when I disagree, I will tell your specifically why. Delmarva is simply rejects the PSC's reality and substitutes its own.
HCR 50 was tabled so that the language could be tweaked and the PSC invited to the committee. (That should be fun.) The good news is that we have been able to focus the spotlight on Delmarva's credibility for most of the week with radio spots, news articles and yesterday's committee hearing. HCR 50 is a minor matter in the overall scheme of things, but it's good to put Delmarva Power on the defensive.

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