By Ben Geman - 07/03/12 07:31 PM EDT
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a powerful House Democrat allied with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), says he’ll put embattled utility Pepco under the microscope over days of storm-induced power outages his constituents have faced during the recent heatwave.
Van Hollen’s suburban Maryland district is home to many residents still without electricity since Friday’s violent storms throughout the Northeast. He said in a statement Tuesday that he’s frustrated with how long it’s taking to restore power, and that his top focus right now is on the safety of people affected by the storm.
“Once power has been fully restored, I will be evaluating Pepco’s performance. That evaluation will include a comparison of Pepco’s response to that of other utility companies in our region,” Van Hollen said. “As part of that assessment, I welcome the comments, observations, and recommendations of all of my constituents,” he said.
The five-term Democrat has the clout to make waves for the utility, which is facing strong criticism over the pace of returning electricity to sweltering homes.
Van Hollen, who is seen as a rising star in the Democratic ranks, is former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and currently the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
Van Hollen said that for now, he and his staff are “closely monitoring events on the ground, and we are working with constituents who have encountered life-threatening situations — both medical and public safety concerns — to facilitate solutions in the days following the storm.”
The Friday storm knocked out power to more than 443,000 customers in Pepco’s service area in Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The utility said in a press release Tuesday that it has restored power to 75 percent of the outages and plans to have electricity flowing again to the “vast majority” of its customers by 11 p.m. Friday.