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Stunningly Beautiful Icy Waterfalls  - But Stunningly Horrible for a Home Shower, especially with a 600% Price Increase Attached
Stunningly Beautiful Icy Waterfalls - But Stunningly Horrible for a Home Shower, especially with a 600% Price Increase Attached

Washington Gas hasn't seemed receptive to many of us lately. In addition to the 62+ natural gas leaks in Georgetown since 2016, some of us have been over-charged for our gas, we're not getting legitimate, and paid-for services - or all of the above. Take me, for instance: Last year, Washington Gas charged me 600% more for gas than in years prior (I assume accidentally). My usual annual gas bill has been $600 to $700 (I live in a tiny house with an electric heat pump). Last year, I was charged $3,400. And to add insult to injury, I don't even have hot water. How is this possible?

A sad - but simple - story... 7 Acts in chronological order:

1. Washington Gas over-charged me by at least $2,700 in 2017 and has not refunded me,

2. On October 26th, after I became concerned about Georgetown's gas leaks, I contacted Washington Gas to inspect my home for any potential problems. After the technician thoroughly investigated my home inside and outside, he found no gas leaks on my property or issues with any appliances, including the water heater or stove. During the examination, he turned my gas and hot water off, and then back on with no problem. Before then and since then, my gas and hot water had been working perfectly - until Washington Gas paid another visit,

3. To explore the reason behind my excessive gas bill, the DC Office of the People's Counsel asked Washington Gas to analyze my gas meter. On November 7, Washington Gas came, cut off my gas, turned off my hot water heater, and took out my meter to take it to their facilities for a 24-hour test (I'm still waiting for the results),

5. The Washington Gas technician replaced my old meter with a new meter. He turned my gas back on, and it works as usual,

6. Regrettably, the Washington Gas technician was unable to turn my hot water back on,

7. Surprisingly, the Washington Gas technician said I would have to hire a plumber to turn my water heater back on. Apparently, he said, something must have happened in the interim - between turning my hot water off and a little while later, trying to turn it back on - causing my hot water heater's pilot light to become dysfunctional. "Only a plumber can fix it now," he said.

Follow-Up Questions:

1. My pilot light was working, and I was enjoying hot showers until the Washington Gas technician turned it off. If a plumber is needed for something a Washington Gas technician causes to malfunction, shouldn't Washington Gas provide and pay for said plumber? More than a week later, I do not have hot water.

2. Is there a rational Washington Gas executive who would quickly refund my (clearly accidental) overcharges and turn my hot water heater back on?

Solutions I've Tried & Next Steps:

1. I contacted the DC Office of the People's Counsel *, whose mission it is to advocate for consumers in relation to their utility services and bills*,

2. My sympathetic representative at the Office of the People's Counsel arranged for the Washington Gas meter testing, and for an employee of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (PSCDC) ** to accompany and supervise the Washington Gas technician,

3. When my water heater would not re-light after it had been turned off by the Washington Gas technician, and I expressed confusion and frustration, the Washington Gas technician and the PSCDC employee dismissed my concern with, "Sometimes that happens... You'll need a plumber to re-light it."

4. I reported this to my Office of the People's Counsel representative who, upon contacting Washington Gas about my complaint, told me, "Washington Gas and the PSCDC said you need to replace your water heater." She went on to tell me, "They said you told their employees, while at your house, that you weren't getting hot water in different parts of your home before they came to do the testing."

  • Firstly: There is no dispute that my pilot light only malfunctioned after the Washington Gas technician turned it off.
  • Secondly: At the scene, I was told that the pilot light had to be fixed. They did not say, "You need to replace your water heater."
  • Thirdly: I absolutely had hot water throughout my house before the visit, and their claim that I said my "hot water wasn't working in parts of [my] house" is not true.
  • Fourthly: My house, gas, and hot water heater had been inspected and ok'd by a Washington Gas technician just a couple of weeks prior.

Concerns and Questions: What does one do when representatives - such as the one from the PSCDC who are supposed to help consumers - miscommunicate the facts? I did notice what I believe to be an inappropriate collusion between the two employees, an obvious deference of PSCDC toward the Washington Gas technician's point of view without investigation or thought. I was disheartened by the PSCDC employee's too obvious lack of interest and consideration in solving my problem objectively and fairly.

Georgetown's Gas Leak Advocate, Edward Segal, did warn me, after all, when he told me, "The PSCDC did nothing after a year of submitting my request for information and transparency about the gas leaks; they simply passed my grievance to Washington Gas, which did not respond. No meeting or contact with any PSCDC commissioners, no discussion, or solutions took place... The PSCDC and the DC People's Counsel should read their own mission statements!" added Segal.

What could my next step be? When I tried to suspend paying my gas bill quite a while ago, Washington Gas cut my gas off for several days.

Who can I turn to about my more than $2,700 refund? About turning my hot water back on? A genuine commissioner of the PSCDC? A bona fide Washington Gas analyst? A rational Washington Gas executive? Georgetown's Ward 2 DC Councilmember, Jack Evans? Jack Evans' Constituent Liaison Officer, Sarina Loy? DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser? President Donald Trump? Ivanka Trump? Jared Kushner?

My Water Heater (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) My Water Heater

My water heater, with some dirt wiped away on top (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) My water heater, with some dirt wiped away on top

 

***

Mission Statements of the DC Office of the People's Council and the Public Service Commission of DC:

The Office of the People's Counsel is an independent agency of the District of Columbia government. By law, the Office advocates for consumers of natural gas, electric and telephone services. The Office also represents the interests of District utility ratepayers before the DC Public Service Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Communications Commission, other utility regulatory bodies, and the courts. The Office is mandated to conduct consumer education and outreach, and may represent individual consumers with complaints related to their utility service and bills.

Through this mission, the Office of the People’s Counsel is Preparing Today for a Brighter Utility Tomorrow for the benefit of consumers in all eight wards, as well as the betterment of the economy of the District of Columbia, the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of environmental quality.

***

** The mission of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia is to serve the public interest by ensuring that financially healthy electric, natural gas and telecommunications companies provide safe, reliable and quality utility services at reasonable rates for District of Columbia residential, business and government customers. 


We do this by:

  • Motivating customer– and results–oriented employees
  • Protecting consumers to ensure public safety, reliability, and quality services
  • Regulating monopoly services to ensure their rates are just and reasonable
  • Fostering fair and open competition among service providers
  • Conserving natural resources and preserving environmental quality
  • Resolving disputes among consumers and service providers
  • Educating consumers and informing the public

The Commission has identified three goals for carrying out its mission: 
 

 

2 Comments For This Article

Anonymous

I would like to know the final outcome of this fiasco. Isn’t anyone responsible or held accountable these days?

Katherine Tallmadge

Thank you! One feels so helpless about these things sometimes. Katherine