This remedy, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, would impose individual responsibility rather than simply relying on corporate accountability, and provide those in authority with a very strong additional and very personalized incentive to make prompt repairs, and make sure that they fully appreciate the effects of their actions or inactions on their many customers.
For all too many power company executives - who have sufficient means to protect their own interests with stand-by electric generators and other techniques - power outages and the many problems they cause customers are largely abstractions to be viewed primarily in terms of their company's bottom line, and perhaps on their bonuses and/or other compensation related to cost containment, argues Banzhaf.
"Imposing individual responsibility, by requiring PEPCO executives and their families to go without electricity whenever their customers must, makes the problems much more real and personal, and will create a significant added incentive for them to better manage their repair and other operations once a significant power outage occurs. Unlike power lines burials, distributions switches, and other proposals, this alternative or supplemental remedy could be put into effect immediately and at virtually no cost," says Banzhaf.
Under the tentative terms of the proposal, once there is a significant power outage, PEPCO's CEO and several key executives would be required to stop using electric power in their homes - other than from battery-powered flashlights, radios, battery back-up for phones and computers, etc. - and to live there without AC (or heat during the winter) until the outage was ended.
The members of their immediate families would have to continue to reside with them in their homes, and could not go out or visit other venues where they might find AC (or heat) - other than for business, schooling, and normal trips - until the outage was corrected to the satisfaction of D.C. officials.
To insure compliance, the executives shall be required to execute binding legal agreements with D.C. authorizing the District's agents to insure compliance by making unannounced visits and by other appropriate means.
On Friday, the District's Committee on Public Service & Consumer Affairs will hold a hearing to consider PEPCO’s conduct following the storm, and various proposals to protect District residents from similar prolonged blackouts in the future. It will begin at 1:00 PM at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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