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December 14, 2020

D.C. Commission Greenlights $150 Million in Dirty Gas Spending

Washington, D.C., Public Service Commission approves $150 million in dirty gas spending that harms ratepayers and threatens climate targets

Contacts

Miranda Fox, Earthjustice 

Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Public Service Commission put District gas customers on the hook last week for another $150 million investment in Washington Gas’s outdated pipeline spending proposal. The full, 30-year spending proposal will cost ratepayers up to $4.5 billion on the gas utility’s fossil fuel distribution system, which itself is only valued at $525 million. Washington Gas’s plan is incompatible with D.C.’s climate commitment to phase out fossil use by 2050 and flies in the face of the real actions needed and outlined in the Clean Energy D.C. plan.

The District established itself as a climate leader after the passage of the 2018 Clean Energy Omnibus Amendment Act. The Clean Energy D.C. plan calls for phasing out dirty gas and electrifying buildings to achieve the District’s climate commitment of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. However, Washington Gas’s plan presumes that their fossil fuel distribution system will be used in the District through 2085, more than three decades after D.C. has pledged to end fossil fuel combustion. Spending billions of dollars on a fossil fuel distribution that is slated to become obsolete by 2050 would severely inhibit the District’s ability to meet its climate commitments and strand billions in dirty gas distribution assets leaving ratepayers to foot the bill.

The Order ignores these concerns, opting to continue the Commission’s costly business-as-usual approach to pipeline replacement. The Commission fully funded three additional years of investments in the pipeline system — at a cost of $150 million — without grappling with the consistency of these investments with the Clean Energy D.C. plan or its climate commitments.

Susan Stevens Miller, staff attorney with Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program released the following statement in response:

“The Commission’s finding that PROJECTpipes2 is consistent with D.C.’s climate goals, demonstrates a failure to recognize the extreme urgency of the climate change dilemma and simply kicks the can down the road to the detriment of D.C. residents and the environment. Electrification and similar alternatives provide a more cost-effective, safer, longer-term strategy for reducing our reliance on aging and unreliable pipes and achieving a zero-emissions future.”

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Senior Campaign Representative David Smedick released the following statement in response:

“The Public Service Commission’s recent order to further reliance on expensive climate-warming fossil fuels stands in direct contrast with the District’s own climate targets. The commission has repeatedly proved reluctant to confront the climate impacts of their orders. Now DC ratepayers are rapidly heading towards paying $4.5 billion for dirty fossil fuel infrastructure that will become a stranded asset by the time the District will have to start rapidly electrifying buildings. The District is going to need the Council to make sure the city is going to meet its climate laws.”

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