Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Changes At State Utility Regulator

Less than 24 hours after announcing that he was appointing Arthur House, a  former Webster Bank executive, as a director of Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Gov. Dannel Malloy now has another vacancy on the three-member board to fill.

Malloy's office says the Governor offered to re-nominate both Chairman Kevin DelGobbo and Jack Betkoski to new terms on PURA. DelGobbo (shown in photo below from when he was a state representative) declined his re-nomination and will leave PURA on May 11th while Betkoski accepted his and will stay on.

But what is noticeably absent from Malloy's announcement is whether the Governor offered to keep DelGobbo as chairman of PURA as part of the deal. A Malloy spokesman was immediately available Wednesday to comment on whether DelGobbo's re-nomination included plans for the Naugatuck resident remaining chairman.

DelGobbo joined PURA's predecessor, the Department of Public Utility Control, in Jan. 2009, He was made chairman five months later after long time DPUC head Donald Downs retired.

DelGobbo acquitted himself reasonably well as chairman of DPUC/PURA. But so have several other heads of state agencies - Jerry Farrell at Department of Consumer Protection and Mary Healey at the Office of Consumer Counsel come to mind - and Malloy chose not to reappoint them, some would suggest because they are Republicans.

That's what makes DelGobbo's leaving the DPUC so puzzling. Malloy could have chosen not to renominate him at all, but instead offered this complimentary assessment of DelGobbo tenure at the regulatory agency.

Since 2009, Kevin has led DPUC and PURA in charting sound energy policy for the state,”  Malloy said in a written statement.  “I am especially grateful for his service this past year in responding to the two devastating storms that impacted Connecticut, and in particular helping my administration craft policy that will improve service and reliability for residents.  I am very sorry Kevin has not accepted my offer to reappoint him.  He has brought honor and professionalism to his position, and his departure is a loss for all of Connecticut.”

Betkoski, who is shown in the photo at right, has served as a Connecticut utility regulator since 1997. The Beacon Falls resident has served as vice chairman of DPUC/PURA in 2007 and again in 2011.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pondering An Appointment to PURA......

As actor Frank Gorshin used to say when he portrayed The Riddler on the old Batman television series, "Riddle me this......."

That's the reaction I was left with on Tuesday when Gov. Dannel Malloy announced he had nominated a former communications executive with Webster Bank to serve as a director of the state agency that regulates Connecticut's public utilities. The selection of Arthur House of Simsbury (shown at left) to serve on the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) begs the question as to whether he is qualified to serve in the position.

Don't get me wrong. I've dealt with Mr. House when he was at Webster Bank and he certainly seems like a competent enough individual. Before being nominated to serve on PURA, House had most recently served as Chief of the Communications Group for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a combat support agency of the U.S. Department of Defense.

But don't you think ratepayers would be better served by Malloy appointing someone who either has a background in utilities or regulatory issues associated with the industries that PURA regulates.

If his nomination is approved,  House will fill the vacant PURA directorship that had previously held by Anna Ficeto, who was recently sworn in as a Superior Court judge.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Northeast Utilities Chief Executive Offers Perspectives on Company's Future

Thomas May, Northeast Utilities' new president and chief executive officer, didn't waste any time in his first day on the job.

May (shown at left) held a conference call with reporters from around the New England on Tuesday and addressed a variety of topics related to company. NU announced completion of its merger with Boston-based NStar earlier in the day.

Among the topics May covered:

Reliability issues in Connecticut in the aftermath of two crippling storms last fall and how the merger will address those problems:  "The bottom line is that we'll have more resources, capability and flexibility to serve our customers. We will have literally hundreds and hundreds of crews we can move around New England. We, as larger company, will be better prepared and not dependent on help being shipped in from other jurisdictions that may have different agendas or political issues to deal with."

Reaction to the idea that Connecticut lawmakers will likely adopt performance standards for the state's electric utilities in as result of their performance during last year's storms: "We're not strangers to performance standards. Many regulatory bodies have performance standards. It's a common practice. We're confident that the capabilities of this new company will put us in the top quartile of customer service and we're going to reach those standards whether we're mandated to or not."

The fact that Northeast Utilities will have two headquarters now, in Hartford as well as Boston: "The company has been doing business in Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and New Hampshire very successfully for years. Adding one more leg to the stool will not add much more complication."

The impact that the merger will have on the Northern Pass transmission project, which will bring 1,200 megawatts of power from hydroelectric plants in Quebec down through New Hampshire to help meet demand for electricity in southern New England, where NU's load centers are located: "We have a stronger balance sheet from this merger. Credit rating upgrades from that will make it easier to finance this project. We are in the progress of acquiring property that will allow the line to come down from Canada. It is still in the early stages, but we're making good progress."

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