D.C. Public Service Commission Says No to $672 Million Gas Pipe Replacement Program

The District of Columbia's Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected an unnecessary $672 million gas pipeline replacement program that would have raised prices, endangered public health and contradicted the District's climate goals. The PSC's decision is a pivotal moment for the regulation of utility Washington Gas, forcing it to better align its plans with the District's climate goals and continued progress on electrification initiatives.

In its June 12 order, the PSC denied Washington Gas's request for funding for ProjectPipes 3 and ordered the company to submit a new plan within 45 days that aligns with the district's climate goals. The commission's decision not to fund ProjectPipes 3 saves customers money and halts a gas line replacement program that undermines the district's goal of reducing fossil fuel use in its buildings and becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

Additionally, in a separate but related decision issued the same day, the PSC partially granted the Office of the People's Counsel's request to investigate Washington Gas's leak reduction practices. In addition to denying ProjectPipes 3, this decision demonstrates that Washington Gas has a history of inadequate leak reduction practices. This includes the utility prioritizing potentially leaky pipes over actually leaky pipes, exposing Washington, D.C. residents to additional and unnecessary danger.

“The commission listened to citizens and made the right decision,” said Susan Stevens-Miller, Earthjustice attorney. “Washington Gas's ProjectPipes endangers our public health and is contrary to DC's climate goals. This sets a precedent: gas companies cannot risk our health and the environment to line the pockets of vested interests.”

After Washington Gas sought PSC approval for the project in April 2023, the DC Beyond Gas and Stop Project Pipes coalitions organized rallies and letter-writing campaigns against it. Coalition members called on the DC Council's Transportation and Environment Committee to address the inconsistency between ProjectPipes and the city's electrification laws. Earthjustice, Sierra Club, CCAN Action Fund, and 23 other organizations also opposed the third phase of ProjectPipes, citing high costs and lack of alignment with the District's climate goals. In February, the DC Council warned the PSC that further investments in gas infrastructure would conflict with the city's climate goals.

“This decision marks an important turning point in DC. By rethinking the scope of ProjectPipes, the PSC is preparing to align utility spending with the need for an electrified future,” said Katie Meyer, Clean Energy Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club DC Chapter. “This decision is also critical to protecting DC residents, particularly low-income residents, from being stuck with the cost of new gas lines for decades, even as the lines become idle assets because they are no longer useful in an electrified district. The costs of those idle assets would have been disproportionately passed on to low-income DC residents who cannot simply abandon the gas system because they cannot afford the upfront costs of electrifying their homes.”

According to the PSC, the gas company's new application must demonstrate greenhouse gas emission reductions, cost-effectiveness and integration into ongoing electrification programs.

“With this decision, the PSC has taken an important step toward the future that DC residents deserve. It is a recognition that Washington Gas’s business-as-usual approach is no longer acceptable,” said Naomi Cohen-Shields, DC campaign manager for CCAN Action Fund. “And while this is a huge victory for our coalitions, it is just one step toward holding Washington Gas accountable and moving us toward a fossil-free future. Washington Gas will do whatever it takes to keep DC dependent on gas. We urge commissioners to remain vigilant to ensure that the new plan that is put forward is not just a rebranded ProjectPipes, but rather a truly stripped-down plan that focuses on actually fixing the worst leaks in the interest of our safety, health, and climate.”

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