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Allegheny Power chief apologizes

Utility accepts responsibility for confusion over light bulbs

Utility accepts responsibility for confusion over light bulbs

January 16, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Allegheny Power's president on Tuesday apologized for a light-bulb distribution that went awry, as the utility prepared to personally answer a state regulatory commission's questions about the program.

The company sent a pair of energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs to each of its 220,000 Maryland residential customers last month.

Many customers have said they thought the bulbs were free. A Jan. 7 Herald-Mail story that described an $11.52 surcharge attached to the bulbs triggered a wave of protest from customers and state lawmakers.

"We acknowledge that there are some concerns associated with the distribution of the energy efficient light bulbs and we acknowledge that we could have done a better job of clearly advertising to customers the cost of the Program," Flitman's letter says. "For this Allegheny Power accepts full responsibility for the customer confusion and delivery issues. We are truly regretful and offer our sincere apologies."

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Flitman was responding to a Jan. 11 Jan. 11 letter by Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, the chairman of the Western Maryland delegation in Annapolis. McKee's letter calls the light-bulb distribution a "public relations debacle" and calls for Allegheny to credit customers.

The Maryland Public Service Commission approved the light-bulb distribution last year, but now says it's dissatisfied with how it was carried out.

It has scheduled a hearing with Allegheny today in Baltimore. Some Western Maryland lawmakers plan to attend, including, from Washington County, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Del. Christopher B. Shank, Del. Robert A. McKee and Sen. Donald F. Munson.

It was not clear what might happen today, but Flitman's letter says, "We stand ready to take whatever corrective actions are deemed necessary by the Commission."

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who wasn't planning to go to the hearing, said Tuesday afternoon that a resolution already had been decided: Allegheny will have to issue credit to customers.

"The PSC will approve it in the morning," he said. "It's a done deal."

However, in interviews earlier in the day, spokespeople for both the PSC and Allegheny said they didn't know what might happen at today's hearing.

At the PSC's request, Allegheny has submitted various documents to show how the program was handled and whether customers were clearly notified of the surcharge.

A letter on Monday from Jeffrey P. Trout, a senior attorney for Allegheny, to the PSC also expresses remorse and takes responsibility.

"...(T)he Company could have done a better job of communicating the link between the CFL (bulb) program and the Energy Conservation Surcharge, and clearly there were deficiencies in the delivery of the bulbs to customers," the letter says.

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