June 25--An advocacy group is asking a court to review the Maryland Public Service Commission's approval of the merger between Exelon Corp. and Pepco Holdings, arguing that a former commissioner had a conflict of interest because she took a job with an industry-supported organization after the vote.
Public Citizen, which opposed the $6.9 billion merger of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s parent company and its utility neighbor to the south, filed a petition Monday in Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County asking for judicial review. Maryland's consumer advocate, the Office of People's Counsel, previously petitioned the court to review and overturn the merger approval.
The PSC approved the merger in a 3-2 vote in May.
Public Citizen raised concerns about Kelly Speakes-Backman, who took a job with the Alliance to Save Energy a couple of weeks after voting to approve the merger. The Alliance to Save Energy, a group that lobbies Congress on energy-efficiency issues, has energy corporations including Exelon on its board of directors. Speakes-Backman serves as its senior vice president of policy and research.
Speakes-Backman, whose term on the commission expired in June, denied that there was any conflict, saying she ceased communication with the Alliance to Save Energy after her second interview upon learning Exelon was on the board. She called the accusation "very upsetting."
"This is really just a bunch of sour grapes," she said. "I'm pretty appalled that Public Citizen would single me out."
After voting to approve the deal, Speakes-Backman said, she resumed contact with the organization and it later extended her an offer. She said her family relies on two incomes and she was forced to scramble to find a new job while the merger case was going on.
Speakes-Backman said Exelon contributes a tiny amount to the organization's budget and had no influence over the hiring decision.
"My decision was based on fact and principle," she said. "I think the people behind this false allegation should be ashamed of themselves."
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