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The purchase of District power utility Pepco by Chicago-based Exelon is, as it stands now, a bad deal for District electricity customers. Pepco customers can gripe now about cut-down trees or power outages now, but at least they’re not footing the bill yet for Exelon’s aging nuclear fleet.

Now, opponents of the purchase have another reason to complain the Public Service Commission, which is considering approving the merger. In a letter to the Department of Justice, the American Antitrust Institute claims that the purchase will hurt competitiveness in the electricity market.

Asking DOJ to intervene in the takeover, AAI president Diana L. Moss writes that a combined Exelon and Pepco would be able to block out market rivals. The enlarged company, Moss writes, would  “harm competition and consumers.”

Exelon spokesman Paul Elsberg isn’t swayed.

“We believe that the concerns by the American Antitrust Institute are without merit,” Elsberg says. “These same allegations were already considered and rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which approved the merger last November.”

The AAI isn’t alone in its opposition to the merger. Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh, who saw her hearing about the merger opposed by at-large councilmember (and former Pepco exec) Vincent Orange, reiterated her position today in an interview on WAMU that the end result of the merger would be higher prices in the District.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery