Watch CBS News

Baltimore residents argue in lawsuit BGE can't force 'dangerous' exterior gas regulator on customers

Baltimore residents argue in lawsuit BGE can't force 'dangerous' exterior gas regulator on customers
Baltimore residents argue in lawsuit BGE can't force 'dangerous' exterior gas regulator on customers 02:54

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City residents have filed a lawsuit against Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) after the utility company turned off service when customers refused to give their consent to work outside of their homes.

The lawsuit says BGE can't force exterior gas regulators on their customers.

The customers said BGE turned off the services of residents who disrupted the utility company's work and didn't give their consent to tear up their streets, drill holes in their historic homes and allow crews to install the gas equipment last week.

Baltimore residents seek injunction to stop BGE from installing external gas regulators 02:28

Baltimore residents are now seeking an injunction to stop BGE from installing exterior gas regulators and from threatening to shut off gas service.

When residents protested, BGE abruptly shut off their service. Three women were arrested last Thursday for protesting and disrupting work on Warren Avenue.

"Our research tells us that BGE must give 14 days' notice," Baltimore resident Claudia Towles said. "They have not done that in any of these instances, and they're using their influence to bully and to just go through neighborhoods and completely dismiss our rights. And that is not OK."

The residents say they didn't consent to BGE's work, which included tearing up their streets and drilling holes in the facade of their historic Federal Hill homes. 

The lawsuit names 14 homeowners who say BGE unlawfully shut off service without adequate notice and reason. However, according to the lawsuit, more than 120 Baltimore City residents have executed a retainer agreement and indicated their objection to the installation of the exterior gas regulator.

The residents argue that there is nowhere n Maryland's Code of Regulations that says they can't decline the installation of new equipment on their own property. 

"Section of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) states that a utility may terminate service to a customer for "failure of the customer to permit the utility or its agents to have reasonable access to its equipment located on or in the customer's premises." But nowhere is the utility given the authority to terminate service if a customer declines the installation of new equipment, as opposed to accessing equipment already located on the premise," the lawsuit reads.

Women arrested at protest in Federal Hill face charges of interfering with BGE's utility work 02:17

Residents argue that it is not mandatory by state or federal law for BGE to install the gas regulator. Most of the homes in that Federal Hill community are more than 150 years old.

And because of protesting on the streets, BGE shut off service to those customers. 

"In the past two days, BGE has taken the unprecedented and draconian step of cutting off gas service to at least six residences in Baltimore City because their owners refused to consent to the utility company tearing up their sidewalk, drilling a 3" borehole through the historic marble, granite, and brick facades of their homes, and installing a dangerous exterior gas pressure regulator that is neither required by state or federal law," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says eight Baltimore community associations and dozens of residents are challenging BGE's authority to force these gas regulators on every resident in Baltimore that are "only mandated under Maryland law for multi-family dwellings."

Residents also said BGE shut off service the day of giving notice but "under Maryland regulations, the "utility shall send a notice of termination to the customer at least 14 days before the date on or after which termination will occur," according to the complaint.

Then, the lawsuit adds that BGE called on police and the Baltimore City Mayor's Office to "wrongfully arrest" three residents.

"They're trying to strong-arm residents into giving consent, into having their houses torn apart, their streets torn apart," Attorney Thiru Vignarajah said last week.

According to BGE, the regulators are critical safety upgrades and more than 10,000 of the regulators have already been installed.

Previous coverage
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.