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The Justice First "Keep the Lights On" Campaign: Press Conference at Pepco Against Shutoffs May 7

For Immediate Release
May 6, 2009
Press Contact:
Sarah Sloan at 202-904-7949

Press Conference
Thur, May 7 @ 12:30 PM
Pepco Customer Service Center
701 9th Street NW (b/w G & H Sts.), D.C.


The Justice First "Keep the Lights On" Campaign Demands:
Moratorium on Shutoffs & 50% Rollback in Prices


D.C. area residents will hold a Press Conference in front of Pepco's D.C. office at 701 9th St. NW (between G and H Sts.) to protest against utility shutoffs on Thursday, May 7 at 12:30 pm.

(

This event was originally set for May 1 and has been rescheduled for this date.

)



Mr. Edward Durham, a disabled D.C. resident who was threatened with an electricity shutoff by Pepco on May 1, had his shutoff notice rescinded following a dramatic intervention on Friday, May 1 at Pepco's D.C. office.



Mr. Durham, D.C. residents Paulette Johnson and Crystal Kim, and others will be featured speakers at the press conference set for this Thursday, May 7 at Pepco's D.C. office at 701 9th St. NW.

"I won a reprieve, but Pepco is still threatening me. Hundreds of thousands of other people in the D.C. area are also being threatened. Now we are organizing for justice - for a moratorium on shutoffs and for a 50 percent rollback in utility rates.

"I am a disabled, insulin-dependent resident of Southeast D.C. I have a fixed income and am on SSI. If I lose electricity, I will lose my ability to use my refrigerator, which is essential for maintaining my insulin as well as food and other necessities.

"I am not alone. Thousands of D.C. residents, including many families, live month to month with fear and anxiety because we can't keep up with our electric bills," stated Edward Durham, a D.C. resident who will be a speaker at the press conference.

As of April 1, when the winter restriction on utility shutoffs ended, hundreds of thousands of D.C. metro area residents who are behind on their utility bills became vulnerable to having their power shut off. In 2008, Pepco issued 426,202 shutoff notices. Currently, 1 in 4 D.C. residents are at risk of shutoff.



D.C. utility rates have gone through the roof and people can't pay their bills. Higher energy prices, a result of deregulated markets, have led to rising electricity and natural gas costs. An average monthly Pepco bill for D.C. customers rose from $58.16 in 2004 to $103.67 in 2009.



Pepco's 2008 earnings topped $300 million. Pepco Chairman of the Board Dennis R. Wraase, who was president and CEO until February 2009, received over $9 million in compensation for 2008. Yet families in the D.C. area are being forced to lose electricity and heat because they can't pay their debt to Pepco.



The energy price hikes are hitting those living on fixed incomes, including seniors and disabled people, particularly hard. But many residents who do not qualify for federal or state assistance are facing possible shutoffs as well.



According to utility officials, shortages in staffing have meant that 10 percent of bills are estimated, resulting in significant inaccuracies. Energy companies are gouging customers through both price hikes and inaccurate energy-use estimates.



The Justice First "Keep the Lights On" Campaign demands an immediate moratorium on any shutoffs of heat and electricity. We also demand a 50 percent rollback in heat and electrical rates.

Justice First is a newly-formed national grassroots organization that organizes for economic justice, civil liberties and civil rights.

###


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