Watch CBS News

Stronger Penalties Added For Unreliable Utilities

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Making your electricity more dependable.  That's the goal in Annapolis as lawmakers consider threatening fines against utility companies if they take too long to restore your power.

Kelly McPherson has reaction from customers and BGE.

January's thunderstorm crippled major roads and forced families to live without power for days.  The Kelleys remember their dark 96 hours.

"We tried to save our food by stuffing it in the snow," said Christine Kelley.

It didn't work.

State leaders spoke out, promising that legislation could create accountability for these outages.

"You'll have a legislature that has yet one more exhibit in their arsenal of evidence that Pepco is not guaranteeing the reliability and responsiveness," said Governor Martin O'Malley.

"It's about time that somebody stepped up and said something to them because we can't do it," said John Kelley.

The state legislature is one vote away from approving a bill that would fine utility companies each day their service is below par.  Each day of darkness could mean 2.5 percent of the company's gross revenue or roughly $2 to $4 million per day.

BGE's spokesperson warns that the fines could be going toward improvements and may be counterproductive.

"If there is legislation that's fashioned that's not balanced, that's not reasonable.  That takes more money away from our ability to invest. That's not a good outcome," said Rob Gould.

But those who braved several days in the winter have one idea to amend the legislation.

"I think they should pay it back to the people who lost their power," said Christine Kelley.  "Because we pay regardless anyway.  Whatever happens, we still have to pay."

The bill now says that the company wouldn't be able to recover the fines from the ratepayers.  In other words, they can't pass along the cost to you.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full Senate this week.

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.