Energy and Environmental Advocacy

Isiah Leggett, Chris Van Hollen and Roger Berliner
Pictured above from left:  County Executive Isiah Leggett, Congressman Chris Van Hollen
and Council Vice President Roger Berliner

In 2008, then-Council Vice President Roger Berliner was the lead sponsor of seven environmental bills that the County Executive and the County Council enacted which combined to form one of the nation's foremost global warming programs by a County government. 

Then-County Executive Isiah Leggett also established a County Sustainability Working Group which developed a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.  The climate action plan includes 58 actionable recommendations covering seven areas: renewable energy; residential building energy efficiency; commercial, multi-family and public building energy efficiency; transportation; forestry and agriculture; long-term planning and education and outreach.

In addition to enforcing consumer protection laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive business acts and practices, the OCP has two specific roles in the area of Energy and Environmental Advocacy:

  1. Collaborate with other County Agencies to advocate for the County's interests in obtaining the lowest possible utility rates consistent with environmental stewardship.  ( Energy and Environmental Advocacy )
  2. Assist home sellers and buyers to obtain information about home energy efficiency improvements and energy costs by administering a law which requires home sellers to disclose this information when they sell a single-family home.  ( Energy Performance Audits ). 

The information on these pages is designed to provide information regarding these two new mandates.  Please click for  the  2019 Energy and Environmental Advocacy Annual Report

Montgomery County requires home sellers to provide an energy cost and consumption history, along with information on residential energy efficiency opportunities. This requirement is intended to ensure that the home buyer is informed of the home’s energy performance before the sale, and provides options to finance energy efficiency improvements.

  1. The OCP enforces this requirement and provides the following links to enable sellers to more easily obtain this information from utility  companies.  Please view  DEP's  Disclosure Fact Sheet For Consumers and For Sellers/Agent s
  2. Montgomery Energy Connection provides additional information on how to make your home more energy efficient, take advantage of rebates and tax credits, and ultimately gives you resources to help keep money in your pocket.  
The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors ( GCAAR ) has developed a form for its real estate agents to use to comply with these disclosure requirements.
 
Learn more about the four utility companies that serve Montgomery County, Pepco, BGE, Potomac Edison, and Washington Gas by visiting https://montgomeryenergyconnection.org/energy-use/ - where you can find out more information. .

The Energy and Environmental Advocacy Bill authorizes the OCP to advocate for the County's interest in obtaining the lowest possible rates consistent with environmental stewardship for gas, electricity, and other energy sources. The OCP reviews the extensive docket maintained by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to identify those cases in which our actions in intervening and providing testimony would be the most effective and productive.  

The OCP has participated in the following cases before the PSC in a variety of ways including providing written or oral testimony, attending hearings, and participating in work groups: 

  1. EmPOWER Maryland Energy Act of 2008  (EmPOWER  Maryland) (Case Nos. 9153, 9154, and 9155) 
  2. In the Matter of the Allocation of Money in the Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Fund Pursuant to Section 9-20B-05(G)(2) of the State Government Article, Annotated Code of Maryland (Case No. 9166) 
  3. Smart Grid/Advanced Metering Infrastructure  ( AMI)  (Case  Nos. 9207 and 9208)
  4. Rate Related Cases (Case Nos. 9217, 9286 and 9257)
  5. Pepco Reliability and Utility Service Quality Standards (Case No. 9240 and RM 43)
  6. Price to Compare (Case No. 9228)
  7. PC 44 Rate Design & Competitive Markets and Customer Choice Work Groups
  8. RM62 Revisions to COMAR 20.32, 20.50, 20.53, 20.55, and 20.59–Competitive Markets and Retail Gas and Electric Choice
  1. To Which Types of Property Does the Utility Bill Disclosure Law Apply?
  2. What Does the Utility Bill Disclosure Law Require of the Seller?
  3. How Often Must Seller Update the Utility Disclosure Information?
  4. What Does the Current Law Not Require?
  5. Where can I get Disclosure Forms and Energy-Efficiency Information?
  6. Who do I contact if my utility bill is higher than expected?
  7. Where do I find information on incentives available for home energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects?
  8. Where do I find information on choosing a new electricity or gas supplier?
  9. Where can I find information on radon and its impact on a home I'm buying/selling?

1.  To which Types of Property Does the Utility Bill Disclosure Law Apply? 
The law applies to owner-occupied single family homes and condominiums that are individually metered by electrical or natural gas utilities. It is intended to ensure that the home buyer is informed of the home’s energy performance before the sale, and provides options to finance energy efficiency improvements.

2.  What Does the Utility Bill Disclosure Law Require of the Seller?

  • Before signing a contract for a home, the SELLER must provide the buyer with copies of applicable electrical, gas, and/or home heating oil bills, or a cost and usage history for the 12 months immediately prior to the sale of the single-family home.  This information includes:
  1. The benefits of home energy audits, such as information on the Maryland Home Performance program
  2. Energy-efficiency improvements (e.g., insulation, home sealing, heating and cooling, lighting energy-efficiency, and financing options)
  • If the home was occupied for less than 12 months prior to the sale, the seller must provide the buyer with the required information for any part of the 12 months, if any, that the home was occupied.
  • Additionally, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection recommends that the SELLER also lets the BUYER know about ways the BUYER can  lower their utility bills by scheduling a home energy assessment and participating in energy-efficiency improvements (e.g., insulation, home sealing, heating and cooling, lighting energy-efficiency, and financing options)

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3.  How Often Must Seller Update the Utility Disclosure Information?
It is recommended that the seller compile the information at the time the property is listed for sale.  The information then may only be updated every 6 months that the home is on the market

4.  What Does the Current Law Not Require?

  • DOES NOT require an energy audit before the sale
  • DOES NOT require an energy audit as part of the home inspection
  • DOES NOT apply to the initial sale of a new home

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5.  Where can I get Disclosure Forms and Energy-Efficiency Information?
The Department of Environmental Protection worked with the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) to develop a form for sellers to record and disclose energy cost and history information in a uniform and easy to read format.  You can obtain this form by contacting GCAAR . They also created a flyer with key information included. For additional information on energy efficiency programs, rebates, and financing opportunities visit Montgomery Energy Connection .  
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6.  Who do I contact if my utility bill is higher than expected?
The Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency that regulates utilities, has a  brochure on their website specifically regarding unusually high utility bills.  The PSC advises that "[i]f you don't understand your bill, please call your utility or consult its web site first – they have helpful information on how to read and interpret it."  

  • Contact your utility provider to see if options regular monthly payments are right for you.  Budget Billing and Customer Affordability Programs are some tools that utility companies provide to help spread out annual energy and water bills into even monthly payments. This helps you avoid spikes in your energy bill caused by seasonal fluctuations and unusual utility usage.
  • Contact Health and Human Services to see if they have programs to help you pay your utility bill. The  Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP)  makes energy costs more affordable, prevents the loss of home energy service, and helps restore interrupted service.
  • If you are not satisfied with the service you have received, you can file a complaint with OCP or learn more about how to file a dispute through the Public Service Commission .  According to the PSC, if you think your bill is wrong and you want to dispute it, you must first contact your utility or supplier to try to resolve the problem before calling the PSC." The company is required by law to investigate your inquiry and provide you with an oral or written response.  You should keep a record of the names, telephone numbers, and dates of all conversations you have with the company's representatives.  If you are unable to resolve your dispute, it may be helpful for you to speak with a utility supervisor.  If you still disagree after speaking with the company, you may submit your dispute in writing to the PSC within the time prescribed after receiving the utility's final answer (through mail or online) or call the PSC  Office of External Relations at 410-767-8028.

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7.  Where do I find information on incentives available for home energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects? 
For information on how to lower your utility bills and keep money in your pocket, visit Montgomery Energy Connection .
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8.  Where do I find information on choosing a new electricity or gas supplier?

As a Maryland resident, you have the option to choose who supplies your electricity.

Maryland is an energy choice state where customers have the ability to choose their electricity and natural gas providers. Some suppliers regularly offer rates and service that are 10% or more cheaper than the utility company. If you choose your own supplier, there will be no change in the way your electricity or natural gas will come to your house – it will still be delivered to your home by your local utility company, likely be billed by the same servicer, but you can choose a less-expensive or greener supplier to generate the energy and keep more money in your pocket.

Find an energy supplier that meets your needs – visit  The Maryland Public Service Commission

Interested in switching to green energy – visit  My Green Montgomery

The Maryland Office of the People's Counsel has additional information about choosing an electricity or gas supplier on their website including a guide " Contracting for Electricity and Natural Gas Supply ."  All gas and electricity suppliers must be licensed by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).
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9.  Where can I find information on radon and its impact on a home I'm buying/selling?
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection has information available on radon, the home building law, testing for radon, and reducing radon.  The County's radon testing law, which OCP enforces , is found at Chapter 40-13C .

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RESOURCE NAME DESCRIPTION OF HELP PROVIDED
ENERGY STAR Provides consumers information on Energy Star products, and Home Energy Audits
Maryland Energy Administration Provides consumers with an Energy Savings Calculator, information on Home Energy Efficiency, and Money Saving Tips
Maryland Office of the People’s Counsel Regulates utility companies doing business in Maryland.  Handles consumer complaints for Maryland residents.
Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection Resources for Home Energy Efficiency, Information on Heating Your Home, and Incentives
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Provides information on how to request energy usage and cost information from local utility companies
Bill # 31-07 - Real Property - Energy Performance Audits

Bill # 35-07 - Consumer Protection - Energy and Environmental Advocacy
County Energy and Environmental Laws involving the Office of Consumer Protection
Bill # 29-07 - Environmental Sustainability - Climate Protection - Motor Vehicles

Bill # 30-07 - Buildings - Energy Efficiency

Bill # 32-07 - Environmental Sustainability - Climate Protection plan

Bill # 33-07 - Renewable Energy

Bill # 34-07 - Planning Procedures - Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Other Energy and Environmental Advocacy County Laws
OCP Newsletter on "Solar Energy & Maryland Law" https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OCP/Resources/Files/OCP_News/Solar%20_Newsletter.pdf 
OCP YouTube Alert on Solar Panels https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITb5n_431_c&list=PLPnHl40rEhrLjlo58US_WvdYXPW5tLqY-&index=13
Montgomery Energy Connection A collection of trusted and unbiased information compiled by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and other partner organizations