As people’s counsel for the District of Columbia, I appreciate the article “Power Lines” (3/1), written by Holly Bailey. In my efforts to educate consumers and inform them about ongoing utility issues, I recognize the media as an invaluable and effective tool in helping the Office of the People’s Counsel extend its consumer-education message to broad audiences. The photo illustration accompanying this article, however, was inappropriate and misleading.

Under normal circumstances, as the people’s counsel I would be the first to criticize a public utility for failing to appropriately concern itself with issues affecting rates, reliability, and quality of service for utility consumers. So, for the record, I want to be the first to say the photo illustration included with Bailey’s piece is grossly unfair to PEPCO.

As I made clear and emphasized to Bailey during our conversation on Feb. 19, in my view there really is no comparison whatsoever between PEPCO and what we are learning about Enron. Bailey did not draw this connection in her article. Thus, it is unfortunate someone felt the need to create the mock-up photo and place it alongside what was otherwise an informative article aimed at educating consumers about aggressive and abusive marketing practices of energy suppliers. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In this instance, the photo conveys an entirely different (and undeserved) message about PEPCO from that of Bailey’s piece.

I hope that you will continue to write about utility issues and the sea change D.C. consumers will be facing in coming years. I certainly will continue to talk to the media about issues affecting District utility rate payers and consumers. I do, however, urge you to be cautious in drawing inferences about the District’s public utilities. What occurs in the District’s utility market does not necessarily echo or reflect what occurs in the broader energy arena.

Office of the People’s Counsel