The Washington, D.C. Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to reject Exelon Nuclear's attempted takeover of the Mid-Atlantic electric utility Pepco. This blocks the acquisition, despite other jurisdictions -- including in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey -- having already approved the proposal.
As reported by AP: "[D.C. Public Service] Commission chairman Betty Ann Kane says the companies did not meet their burden of showing that the proposed merger would benefit the public."
Beyond Nuclear has been proud, honored, and privileged to be a part of the PowerDC coalition -- led by such groups as Public Citzen's Energy and Climate Program (see logo, left) -- sending out action alerts to our D.C. supporters, attending rallies, press conferences, and public meetings, bearing witness at Exelon Nuclear CEO Chris Crane's testimony before the D.C. PSC, etc.
PowerDC deserves congratulations and thanks. It has consistently warned about the dangers of Exelon taking over Pepco, from the gouging of D.C. ratepayers in order to prop up dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive old atomic reactors in IL, to the sabotaging of D.C.'s strides in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
As NIRS has tweeted in response to the P.S.C. decision, "Clean energy prevails in DC--a decision that will reverberate across the nation." NIRS president, Michael Mariotte, has just blogged at GreenWorld about another blow to Exelon's atomic reactor fleet -- the failure of three nuclear plants, in three different states, to clear the PJM transmission grid's capacity auction. What's this mean? As Mariotte reports, "most experts seem to think that Exelon will be announcing within the next few weeks [Quad Cities'] permanent shutdown, probably by 2017."
Another recent blow suffered by Exelon was the Illinois state legislature's recess on May 31, 2015, till autumn, without caving to the nuclear lobbyists' demand for a massive $1.8 billion bailout, at the expense of ratepayers. No group has worked harder to block that money grab than Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago.
And today's hard-won victory -- D.C. PSC's wise decision to reject the Exelon takeover of Pepco -- means additional atomic reactors may also be announcing their permanent shutdown, sooner rather than later!
At 4pm Eastern, Public Citizen emailed out this alert, calling on folks to thank the DC PSC:
Just hours ago, D.C. regulators rejected a Chicago-based megautility’s bid to take over Pepco!
Rejection of the deal is a major victory for the region’s residents as well as a defeat for corporate control and outdated, dirty energy sources.
Join us in applauding the D.C. regulators who stood up to Exelon.
And while the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) should be commended for today’s victory, it would not have happened without the thousands of citizens, including you, who registered their opposition to Exelon’s power grab.
The District was the last jurisdiction to vote on the deal — Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey yielded to corporate pressure and conditionally approved the takeover — and the only one to reject it.
There was tremendous pressure on D.C. regulators to approve the takeover, and there will likely be continued pressure on them to reconsider their decision. Exelon has 30 days to ask the PSC for a reevaluation.
In announcing its decision, the commissioners acknowledged the role of the engaged D.C. citizenry and the tenacious coalition of organizations — including Public Citizen — that mobilized the opposition to the deal.
Take a moment to thank the Commission for listening to the citizens of D.C., who called on them to stop Exelon’s power grab and urged them to stand strong against pressure from Exelon.
Add your name to our thank-you note to the D.C. Public Service Commission.
Today is a good day for consumer advocacy and the path toward clean and local power — and it wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Public Citizen’s Climate and Energy Program
Michael Mariotte, President of NIRS, has responded to the DC PSC ruling with a GreenWorld blog. He introduced it this way:
For Exelon, it’s a different story. Wall Street has been eyeing Exelon’s overreliance on a failing, merchant nuclear fleet and urging the company to move in a different direction. Taking over Pepco was the company’s response to that pressure. Now, Exelon would seem to have few options–and a lot less cash coming in to cover those nuclear-related losses, than it was hoping for.
And Wall Street reacted the way only Wall Street can: within an hour of the decision, CNBC was reporting on Twitter that trading in Exelon/Pepco shares had been briefly suspended, then resumed with a surely terrifying 15% drop in its share price.
Exelon and Pepco (which also favored the merger, given the windfall its shareholders would have received -- at the eventual significant expense of its ratepayers) issued a statement of "disappointment" regarding the DC PSC ruling. However, the statement also concluded with the ominous warning, "We will review our options with respect to this decision and will respond once that process is complete."
This is a reminder that ongoing vigilance is required, as Exelon could very well appeal to the DC PSC for a reconsideration, could make a revised application to merge with Pepco, or could take the matter to court.
Thomas Heath has also reported on this story in the Washington Post, including this:
Power DC applauded the decision.
“Thousands of those customers, dozens of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and at least six D.C. Councilmembers strongly opposed Exelon’s acquisition of Pepco because it is not in the public interest of the District,” the organization said in a statement following the decision.
“As the Commission recognized in its decision, the proposed acquisition would have been a substantial step backwards in the District’s efforts to move toward more sustainable electricity generation and greater reliance on local, renewable energy. It would have exposed D.C. residents and businesses to the risk of steeply rising electricity bills.”
Regarding today's news, BloombergBusiness reports:
Pepco, based in Washington, fell 16 percent to $22.51 a share in New York, the largest drop in 13 years. Exelon fell 6.9 percent to $30.40, the most since May 2013.
Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a group that intervened before the PSC in Maryland against the proposed merger, released the following statement in response:
“Today’s ruling is a major victory for people across D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey and for the growth of clean energy across our region. In the end, all of Exelon’s money, lawyers and lobbyists couldn’t mask the overwhelming facts, confirmed today by the D.C. PSC, that this deal would be a boon for Exelon and Pepco shareholders and bad for virtually everyone else.
“We applaud the PSC for recognizing that this nearly $7 billion proposed merger would have raised rates and stunted wind and solar development, as well as efficiency gains, across D.C.’s customer base for electricity. In the end, the D.C. PSC joined with the District’s environmental community, six Councilmembers, 27 out of DC’s 40 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC), the Office of People’s Counsel, and many others in rejecting this deal.
“Now that this harmful, monopolistic proposal has been rejected, it is time to give new life to real solutions to D.C. and Maryland’s energy challenges. These solutions include a significant expansion of wind and solar power, energy efficiency gains, community-based energy systems and microgrids, and improved overall grid reliability. One good idea that emerged from the proposed Exelon-Pepco was to create a PSC-guided process to explore ‘performance-based ratemaking.’ Utilities should be rewarded based on how well they perform on energy improvements that enhance our economy and reduce carbon emissions and climate change. Hopefully, we can now move on to these solutions.”