D.C. Attorney General and Climate Advocates Urge PSC to Pause Costly Gas Pipeline Project

Pressure mounts on Public Service Commission to investigate Washington Gas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, the D.C. Attorney General (DCAG) asked the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) to “reconsider and reverse” its February decision granting Washington Gas an additional $50 million for its costly methane gas pipeline replacement project known as Project Pipes. This request comes on the heels of substantial opposition — from the public, D.C. Councilmembers, the Office of the People’s Counsel, and PSC Commissioner Richard Beverly — to continued ratepayer funding of the exorbitantly expensive and unjustified Project Pipes program as well as growing calls for PSC to investigate Washington Gas’s business practices. 

In its filing, the DCAG argued that the PSC’s decision to extend Project Pipes ignored critical facts and analyses, including a January report by Synapse, that cast doubt on the ability of Washington Gas to meet the goals of the accelerated pipe replacement program. Concurrently, the Commission failed to explain how Washington Gas justified skyrocketing costs for fewer miles and numbers of pipes replaced. The DCAG wrote that “the Commission is simply throwing good money after bad” as it allows Washington Gas to continue charging ratepayers for lackluster system maintenance. 

The DCAG also notes that the Commission provided no indication that it considered alternative and less costly options to address leak-prone pipes — such as pairing service line replacement with heat pump installation — before making its decision to sink another $50 million into replacing gas pipes. Moreover, it failed to require any updated analysis of climate impacts and improperly separated this decision from related orders that are still pending. One of those orders is a request from the Office of the People’s Counsel to open an investigation into Washington Gas’s pipeline infrastructure system given concerns about rising costs, worsening leaks, and misalignment with D.C. climate laws. 

Naomi Cohen-Shields, D.C. campaign manager for the CCAN Action Fund, issued this statement in response to the filing:  

“The D.C. Public Service Commission should absolutely investigate Washington Gas’s business practices. Commissioner Beverly said it best – there is no indication that another year of Project Pipes is just, reasonable, or in the public interest. Yet, under the false pretense of ‘public safety,’ the PSC majority still hasn’t caught up with the ever-present dangers of methane gas. There is no evidence that Project Pipes is making D.C. residents any safer and the opposition to this wasteful project is essentially unanimous. It’s high time for all of the Commissioners to start listening and take action.” 

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) Action Fund is dedicated to driving change in public policies at the local, state and national level to address the climate crisis. Through voter education, lobbying, and participation in the electoral process, we seek to advance our country’s leadership in the global movement towards clean energy solutions — focusing our efforts primarily in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. We know that a vibrant democracy is central to our success so we work to defend democratic integrity wherever we can.