PJM says Exelon bribery involvement didn’t break its rules

Source: By Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Leaders of the nation’s largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection, have determined that Exelon Corp.’s involvement in a utility bribery scandal that unfolded in Illinois did not violate PJM rules.

“Based upon the known facts as set forth in [PJM’s Operating Agreement], we cannot determine that either Commonwealth Edison or Exelon Corporation (or any of its affiliates) violated the PJM Operating Agreement,” Ake Almgren, chair of PJM’s board of managers, wrote in an Oct. 2 letter.

“There are specific obligations for members under the Operating Agreement, and there is no specific obligation we are aware of that Commonwealth Edison has failed to comply with.”

Commonwealth Edison Co., the Midwest’s largest utility and a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., recently admitted to arranging patronage jobs and using bribes to secure passage of energy legislation in Illinois’ capital.

Almgren’s letter comes in response to recent calls for action. Tyson Slocum, director of the Energy Program at watchdog group Public Citizen, and Angela Anderson, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ director of climate and energy, demanded to know how PJM’s board planned to respond to ComEd’s admission (Energywire, Sept. 24).

In a Sept. 14 letter, Slocum and Anderson called on PJM to suspend the voting rights of Exelon and all of its subsidiaries in the PJM stakeholder process for three years.

Almgren said the board will continue to monitor the situation and, should “further facts be unearthed,” may revisit the advocates’ request.

“The PJM response misses the point that the Board should be concerned enough to exercise some leadership and independence on two matters: corruption and climate change,” Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst with UCS, wrote in an email.

“Regarding the corruption, the Board letter takes the most narrow reading of specific obligations under the Operating Agreement, and makes no reference to any code of ethics or conduct.”

On the climate front, he said the board’s view is likewise narrow.

Commonwealth Edison Co. was charged with one count of bribery and will pay a $200 million fine to settle the federal investigation of its lobbying practices (Energywire, July 20).