March 14, 2012

TO: Members, D.C. Council Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs
Councilmember Yvette Alexander, Chair
Councilmember Muriel Bowser
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Jim Graham
Councilmember Phil Mendelson
cc: Council Chair Kwame Brown
cc: Mayor Vincent C. Gray

FROM: Jerry N. Clark, Chair, DC for Democracy

SUBJECT: CONFIRMATION OF ELIZABETH NOEL TO PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

At its monthly membership meeting tonight, the members of DC for Democracy voted unanimously to support Elizabeth Noel for membership on the Public Service Committee. We believe that she is not only extremely well-qualified (with which almost no one takes issue), but the arguments against her do not merit her rejection.

The argument on the “recusal” issue is refuted not only by her testimony, but by the Attorney General for the District as well.

The real issue, we believe, is the matter of her temperament in connection with her very strong record of advocacy for consumer interests. That she has been a strong advocate for consumer interests is no reason to disqualify her for this position. It is, if anything, at least as strong a reason to have her on the Commission. If, however, it is about her deportment in the role of advocate, we wonder why it is assumed that a person of her obvious intelligence and professionalism would be unable to adapt to the role of a Commission member.

We have to wonder whether what lies behind all this is the concern of the utilities that she will be a commission member who truly puts them to the test on their requests for rate increases and other matters. The PSC is NOT intended to be a neutral arbiter between utilities and the public. It is “to serve the public interest by ensuring that financially healthy electric, natural gas and telecommunications companies provide safe, reliable and quality utility services at reasonable rates”.

Pepco, in particular, has been fighting vigorously against Ms. Noel. We note that Pepco has earned the reputation of being one of the most hated corporations in America, while being one of the most profitable. The level of dissatisfaction among local consumers has been very high. It would be most unfortunate for the Council to hand this self-interested adversary a victory, especially given the flimsy case against Ms Noel’s confirmation.

It may be of interest to know that PRIOR to our members’ consideration of Ms Noel this evening, interviews were conducted with seven candidates in the Special Election for the vacant Ward 5 Council seat. In response to a direct question to all seven, six of the seven candidates strongly supported the confirmation of Ms. Noel. The other candidate was “not sure”. Perhaps out of disbelief, I was asked by a member to read the question again and ask a second time for the candidates’ answers. I did so, and not one candidate wavered in his/her position.

DC for Democracy urges you in the strongest possible terms to support the confirmation of Elizabeth Noel for the Public Service Commission. We are convinced that there is strong public support for this action that should not be ignored.