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Maryland Public Service Commission: residents to decide where regulators are located

After a summer filled with disputes between Baltimore citizens and the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has ruled that service shut-offs for customers refusing exterior regulators are not justified. This decision is part of a broader resolution that allows BGE’s residential customers to opt into having a gas pressure regulator installed on the exterior or interior of a single-family home.

BGE, Maryland’s largest gas and electric utility and a subsidiary of the Exelon Corporation, faced legal challenges when Thiru Vignarajah, counsel for Baltimore City residents, filed a lawsuit petition in June. Numerous customers within BGE’s service territory joined the petition after filing complaints with the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Division.

The Baltimore City Council also got involved, passing a resolution in July that called on the PSC to reject BGE’s proposed multi-year rate plan. Councilmember Zeke Cohen, who brought BGE leadership and city residents together to seek a compromise solution, welcomed the PSC’s recent decision, considering it a victory for Baltimore City residents.

“I applaud Chair Hoover and the commission for using their regulatory power to bring stakeholders to the table and develop a legally-binding compromise on gas regulators,” Cohen stated.

In August, the PSC held hearings on the matter before issuing its decision. The Commission ordered BGE to revise its practices, allowing residential customers to choose the placement of gas service pressure regulators inside or outside their homes. Additionally, the Commission recommended that BGE collaborate with relevant parties to provide customers with a written notice at least 14 days before gas regulator installation, giving them the choice of exterior or interior installation.

Councilmember Cohen emphasized the importance of customer choice in gas regulator placement, ensuring safety while respecting homeowners’ preferences.

BGE’s Gas Service Regulator Relocation Program FAQs highlight the company’s concerns about indoor regulators, which they argue pose a greater risk compared to outdoor regulators in the event of a failure. According to BGE, outdoor regulators vent natural gas directly to the atmosphere, while indoor regulators require a properly installed, unobstructed, and undamaged vent line to safely release gas outdoors.

Gas regulators are essential as they control natural gas pressure in buildings, allowing safe usage in standard appliances. BGE also notes the presence of emergency shut-off valves nearby to stop gas flow in emergencies. The gas meter is typically installed after the pressure regulator to measure the quantity of natural gas entering the building.

BGE began defaulting to external regulator installation in 2021, a decision that drew complaints regarding aesthetics, optics, and safety. The company argued that this practice aligns with industry best practices and provides easy access during emergencies.

Last summer, BGE provided supplemental information on its gas regulator installation plans for Baltimore City residents, addressing technical reasons for its policy and suggesting that residents could paint or decorate the regulators if aesthetics were a concern.

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