Overwhelming Majority of D.C. Councilmembers Tell Public Service Commission to Reject Washington Gas's Costly and Controversial Pipeline Spending Program
In a letter, Councilmembers tell Commissioners to begin new energy planning process “consistent with carbon neutrality goals” passed by Council in 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – An overwhelming majority of D.C. Councilmembers today sent a letter to the District’s Public Service Commission urging the commissioners to reject Washington Gas’s costly and controversial pipeline replacement program. Calling the utility’s “Project Pipes” program unnecessarily expensive and “incompatible” with the city’s carbon neutrality goals, the Councilmembers called on the PSC to begin a new energy planning process that protects consumers and conforms to existing law.
Led by Councilmember Charles Allen, more than three-quarters (10 of 13) of the D.C. Councilmembers signed the letter, including Council Chair Phil Mendelson. The other Councilmembers who signed the letter were Janeese Lewis George, Vincent Gray, Brianne Nadeau, Robert White, Brooke Pinto, Matthew Frumin, Zachary Parker, and Christina Henderson.
Environment and justice advocates praised the Council letter as a huge step in stopping Washington Gas’s plan to invest enormously in polluting pipeline infrastructure while imposing unfair costs on ratepayers.
In their letter, the D.C. Councilmembers:
- remind Commissioners of their obligation to uphold D.C.’s strong climate laws, including plans for the District to be carbon neutral by 2045 as well as move toward full electrification of both public and private buildings in the District;
- comment on the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs associated with Project Pipes Phase 3, which will be disproportionately shouldered by lower-wealth households over the long term;
- point out that targeted repairs of leaking pipes can be done at a fraction of the cost compared to full pipeline replacement and are a better solution given the District’s legal obligation to move towards electrification; and
- urge the Commission to reject Project Pipes and instead focus on comprehensive, integrated energy planning that will set the District on course for a sustainable and equitable energy future.
The Councilmembers conclude, “Together, the existence of alternatives to complete pipeline repair and the impending release of new regulations undermine the justification for the wholesale pipeline replacement project.”
Naomi Cohen-Shields, D.C. Campaign Manager for CCAN Action Fund, stated: “In sending this letter, Councilmembers are taking a stand against Washington Gas’s plans for skyrocketing gas bills, unchecked pollution, and decades more reliance on a volatile infrastructure. We are grateful to these Councilmembers for seeing the issue clearly, and we urge continued action at both the D.C. Council and the Public Service Commission to get rid of Project Pipes once and for all.”
The D.C Council letter reflects widespread community opposition to Project Pipes. In December, 26 organizations sent a letter to the Public Service Commission expressing unified opposition to the continuation of Washington Gas’s billion-dollar pollution plan. Five advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs) in the District have passed resolutions against Project Pipes. And just last week, over a dozen advocates testified at the PSC Oversight hearing against continued approval for Washington Gas’s major spending programs.
“It is a great honor to work on intersectional justice issues with D.C. residents,” stated Jamoni Overby, D.C. Conservation Advocate for Nature Forward. “Our efforts in the campaign to Stop Project Pipes continue to educate and build community around decarbonization efforts in the District. With current events such as gas explosions destroying businesses and putting innocent residents’ safety at risk, now is the time for a change and we appreciate every Councilmember and their staff that has taken time to understand the issue; especially those being intentional in this communal effort to do something about it.”
New data also shows that Washington Gas is shirking its routine maintenance responsibilities to repair actual leaking pipes and respond to calls from customers.
“The Councilmembers’ statement today is a testament to our collective commitment to a sustainable and healthy environment for all D.C. residents,” said Tim Oberleiton, an attorney with Earthjustice’s Right to Zero program. “Their support underscores the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy solutions that protect our community and the planet. Project Pipes is simply not the answer.”
“We commend the Councilmembers who signed onto this letter advocating bravely for a fossil-free future,” said Bob Musil, President and CEO of Rachel Carson Council. “If we are to meet our climate commitments and finally break free from the grasp of natural gas, we must end the business-as-usual approach of throwing money at fossil fuel infrastructure; we must finally invest in bringing our communities into a just green transition.”
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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 levels 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 toward 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.