HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today filed a complaint with Commonwealth Court against the Delaware Valley Regional Economic Development Fund (DVREDF) – along with various officers and members of the board of directors for the organization.
The complaint alleges that DVREDF has failed to properly use public utility ratepayer funds for economic development and seeks a return of unspent funds, plus interest, to be redirected to various utility hardship funds or universal service programs for low-income customers, support other sustainable development funds, or provide customer rate relief.
In 1998, as part of a restructuring plan settlement for PECO Energy Company (PECO) related to electric deregulation in Pennsylvania (The Electric Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act, Act 66 of 1996), DVREDF received approximately $21 million in funding from PECO ratepayers – intended to support loans and grants for “economic development projects which have a job impact” in the PECO service territory across southeastern Pennsylvania.
Because of concerns about a lack of loan or grant activity, the Commission reached a 2010 settlement with DVREDF, requiring the organization to “maximize fund use,” update their guidelines for loans and grants, submit quarterly reports to the Commission and make structural changes to the board of directors to better reflect the area being served.
According to the PUC complaint, DVREDF activity has remained at an “unacceptable low level,” with no known outreach programs to identify credible projects; no protocols or metrics to evaluate the few programs that have been funded over the years; and no known efforts to make the Philadelphia community aware of the availability of these economic development funds.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that DVREDF has ceased to cooperate with Commission efforts to secure information about its operations in order to determine compliance with PUC orders.
The PUC’s complaint requests that the Commonwealth Court find DVREDF to have breached the terms of the contract and Commission order, and require DVREDF to return the settlement funds, plus interest.
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