Looking up at power lines
Pepco power lines Credit: Darrow Montgomery/FILE

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During the 2020 campaign season, 22 candidates signed the No Pepco Pledge. If elected, signatories promised to voluntarily disclose all meetings with Pepco and Washington Gas lobbyists.

Three of those candidates were elected to the D.C. Council, and all three—Councilmembers Brooke Pinto (Ward 2), Janeese Lewis George (Ward 4), and Christina Henderson (At-Large)—subsequently met with lobbyists for Pepco, lobbyist filings show. None of them proactively disclosed the meetings, as the pledge requires, until Loose Lips inquired about them.

Lewis George writes in an email that she plans to disclose meetings with the utilities’ representatives twice a year, in July and January. She says she’ll share meeting notes by request.

Lewis George met with Pepco lobbyists in early February for “introductions and update,” according to lobbyists filings. During the meeting, she tells LL via email, she asked about preventing electricity shutoffs and rate hikes and transitioning to clean, sustainable energy.

“I am 100% committed to the No PEPCO Pledge!” she writes.

Henderson met with the utility in mid-January for an intro and update, lobbyist filings show. Henderson’s spokesperson, Amanda Farnan, says the plan is to publish meeting notes on a biannual basis. She sent LL a preview of the details that will be included in Henderson’s newsletter in late July.

Lobbyist records and an email from Pinto’s office show that the Ward 2 councilmember met with Pepco reps at least twice, and possibly four times, since taking office. Pinto had an introductory meeting in July 2020, filings show, and met again with representatives in November about the False Claims Amendment Act, which expands the District’s capacity to prosecute tax cheats.

Pepco spokesperson Ben Armstrong tells LL in an email that a Pepco lobbyist met with Pinto about the False Claims Act on behalf of the business community in general, including Pepco. The meeting was to gain an “understanding of the potential vote outcome” and ensure “the legislation did not result in unintended consequences while also meeting the Council’s policy goals,” Armstrong says.

The meeting minutes Pinto’s office sent to LL do not include the November meeting. But they do include two meetings in February 2021 and June 2021. Pinto and Pepco lobbyists discussed pandemic-related relief for businesses, assistance for residents behind on payments, and new businesses and developments coming to Ward 2, according to notes from Pinto’s office. Pinto also was introduced to Pepco’s board of directors and got an overview of the Washington DC Economic Partnership’s vision and mission, according to her notes. Pinto’s staff did not say why she did not voluntarily disclose the meetings or when she would disclose future meetings or notes from them.

Marli Kasdan, an organizer with We Power DC, the group behind the No Pepco Pledge, is encouraged that councilmembers are disclosing details of their meetings with Pepco, but she’d prefer to see those disclosures within 30 days of the meetings, rather than twice a year. We Power DC advocates for a shift to a public utility model.

Signatories also promised to support legislation that calls for a study of alternative utility models. We Power DC has yet to push for the introduction of such a bill but is looking to do so this fall. Kasdan says they’ve been focused on pandemic response and the looming end to the utility shutoff moratorium.

“Great that their intent is to disclose meetings biannually,” Kasdan says. “That’s in keeping with the spirit of the pledge, but we want to see it more frequently.”