BGE: Less excuses, more action

August 02, 2012

So now BGE offers excuses for their poor performance in the June 29 storms ("Report from BGE details efforts to get storm crews," Aug. 1). They blame their expensive private weather forecasting services and the failure of out-of-state crews to respond in adequate numbers. Let's take these in order.

Most of us get our weather forecasts from local TV, from the Weather Channel, from online resources and, oh yes, the National Weather Service. I don't know if these were better in this instance but they certainly weren't worse.

Like most essential government services, the National Weather Service has been cut back in the last decade or so of Republican-dominated budgets. They used to give an agricultural prediction of rainfall that gardeners as well as farmers liked to hear, but it was judged too competitive to private services so it was discontinued. It should be restored. Private services are not reliable. BGE has told us so.

As for out-of-state crews, I remember another big storm when out-of-state trucks and crews were hiding all day in a little cul-de-sac in our neighborhood. Does BGE keep track of their out-of-state crews to make sure they are actually working?

Now here are my solutions. First, BGE should depend on the NWS for storm forecasts. If they are inadequate we can do something about it at the federal level. We, the public, have no control over private forecasters. Increased funding of the NWS will depend on replacing Republicans in Congress. Elections have consequences.

Second, BGE should have extra trucks and other equipment in reserve, and a corps of extra helpers locally to call on in emergencies, sort of a civilian version of the National Guard.

They could train on weekends and be available for call-ups during emergencies. It would cost money, of course, but I see no other way to ensure adequate staffing in emergencies without having crews sitting idly by all year round.

Third, overhead lines are a major reason for lost power. BGE should be required to institute a program of putting wiring underground, with regular progress reports to the Maryland Public Service Commission. It may take decades, but it will improve service in the long run and even save them money overall.

Finally, BGE should stop making excuses. Their only press release should have begun like this: "We failed to give an adequate response. Here is our plan to improve our response next time." That would be better public relations.

John Culleton, Eldersburg

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