Opinion: Davis correct in critique of PSB
Kudos to Eric Davis for his excellent and concise analysis of the flaws in the Public Service Board process. He clearly identifies the needed solutions to make the PSB the independent body it must be in order to uphold the public trust. As an intervenor in the Phase 2 docket, I have come to the conclusion that the process as it currently stands violates Article 4 of the Vermont Constitution, which states:
“Every person within this state ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which one may receive in person, property or character; every person ought to obtain right and justice, freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; completely and without any denial; promptly and without delay; conformably to the laws.”
The monopoly power granted by the state to public utilities means that, although privately held, they are effectively state actors with the power of the state behind them, including the right of eminent domain. This means that unlike in a civil proceeding, where the parties can be seen to operate with equal rights and powers, a PSB docket more closely resembles a criminal proceeding for the landowners involved (one in which, it should be noted, they are not alleged to have done anything wrong).
They are obliged to purchase justice, in that they must either hire legal counsel or suffer lost wages through the time spent representing themselves in a matter initiated by the state. For this reason Mr. Davis’ last point, that the state must fund independent legal advocates for the affected landowners, is crucial.
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