Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poll: Should the Power LInes Go Underground?

We all have experienced it at least once (and most of us, multiple times):  A storm blows through, leaving thousands without power, sometimes for days at a time.  As you sit in your candle-lit house waiting for the overworked Pepco crews to put you back on the grid,  you think to yourself, “Why don’t they just put the damn lines underground?”  But is that really practical?  How much will it cost? Could there still be power outages anyway?

Now you have a chance to tell the DC Council what you think about this question at a public hearing on this subject set for September 30.  But tell All Life Is Local first!  Vote in our poll. Want to know more before you vote?

Or want some very dense reading to make you fall asleep if you have insomnia?  There’s a feasibility study that you can read:  Click here to download the document in PDF format, or go to the Public Service Commission's website and click on the link to the document labeled, "Study on the Feasibility and Reliability of Undergrounding Electric Distribution Lines in DC."


  1. (1) We lived on Capitol Hill, where the power lines are underground, for 14 years before moving to CP and can attest that not only are lines of sight improved but the real gain from having power (and also phone and cable) lines underground is that when there are storms cable, phone and power don't ever go out. And Pepco doesn't threaten or brutalize the trees. (BTW, it makes little sense not to be inclusive about which lines go underground.)
    (2) Just a reminder that these polls, while "fun", are in no way scientific in part because so many people on the listserv do not live in CP and so many people living in CP are not on the listserv -- or even using the internet.

  2. Well, sure, everyone is in favor of putting wires underground. A better
    question might be, "Are you willing to pay $4 billion for it?" Followed by,
    "Are you willing to pay $1 billion to put some wires underground?" And
    then, "Are you willing to let the City Council decide which wires and
    where?" "Should people who don't care be forced to pay higher rates for
    underground wires?"

    Richard Stone Rothblum

  3. Maybe the better question is what are other cities doing to facilitate putting wired utility lines underground? Are they providing financing facilities to assist utilities in doing so? Are there ways to reduce the cost, such as putting the wired utilities underground when a street is rebuilt? And another question is, how do we put the word "public" back in public utility? In other words, back before the utilities were seduced by the siren scenario of being seen as "growth" companies, they were expected to serve certain public objectives in exchange for a predictable income stream. Putting wires underground is, in my view, a worthy public objective. It would offer more reliable service during storm period, would help the tree canopy (thus reducing urban temperatures and the electrical demands of air conditioning somewhat) and would enhance the city streetscape.