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Residents, Politicians Bash BGE for Power Outages

Public commentary on BGE's performance after the June 29 derecho storm was mostly negative.

About 22 people from around Maryland criticized Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s (BGE) performance after the June 29 derecho storm at a public meeting in Annapolis on Monday night.

"I’ve lived at my home in Pasadena for 39-plus years and for 39-plus years I’ve had to contact BGE because my electric was out," Valinda Keemer said.

Keemer also talked about the food she lost during the power outage.

"All my food has spoiled and I was told to contact my insurance company," Keemer said. "You can’t get through to BGE, they will not compensate you for any food lost. It’s always an excuse."

The two-hour meeting was the third of eight scheduled by Maryland's Public Services Commission—the regulating body for utility companies in the state. The meetings are part of the commission's investigation into how well utility companies worked to restore power after the derecho.

Keemer also spoke about the troubles she had with her CPAP breathing machine when she was without power.

"I have a CPAP machine; I use it at night. I could not use my CPAP for days," she said.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold read a prepared statement on where he thought BGE could improve its relationship with local governments.

He focused mainly on Anne Arundel County's desire for more accurate and up-to-date outage information "so that we can have real-time information so that people will know exactly when they are in the queue for having their power restored."

"I think BGE could do a much more effective job in providing that kind of communication," Leopold said.

Officials with Annapolis'  (OEM) reached out to BGE earlier this month to discuss an for service disruptions.

The lone voice in support of the utility company came from Davidsonville resident Erin Minich.

"I don’t think there is anyone really to blame expect Mother Nature," Minich said. "I personally feel that maybe BGE needs to be cut some slack on this specific storm. I know my popularity just went down big in this room."

BGE spokesman Rob Gould sat toward the back of the 's joint hearing room listening to the comments. He said the complaints are in line with what the company has already heard.

Gould said the installation of will help BGE provide better information to local governments and customers because his company will be able to ping each meter to see if a house has power. 

One of the repeated complaints by commenters was frustration over a lack of knowledge about when power would be restored. Gould said after Hurricane Irene, BGE customers reported they would prefer worst-case scenario timelines rather than a series of changing estimates.

"It's almost like surgery," Gould said. "It looks like it will take us 'X' long, but until we get in and open up the patient, we're really not going to be able to tell you. It could go longer."

In June, a destroyed transformer near Baltimore took the company about four days to repair—well beyond initial estimates.

Gould also blamed modern technology, saying it created an expectation that information should always be available immediately. The smart meters will improve communication times, but Gould said there will always be a certain amount of lag between the time a disaster hits, and the time information becomes available.

"The gap between expectations and the reality of restoration continues to widen," Gould said. "As that gap continues to widen, frustrations will continue to grow."

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