Opinion: Hearings on Public Service Department fell well short

Last week I attended a Senate hearing that was called to allow the commissioner of the Department of Public Service to respond to criticisms of his self-edited evaluation of the effectiveness of the agency he oversees. I expected to hear some pointed questioning aimed at improving the DPS’s role as watchdog for utility ratepayers.
What I heard instead was a couple of softball questions from each committee member, an acceptance that “we all have biases,” and a bizarre comparison of Commissioner Recchia to Gen. Grant. Ratepayers, and all Vermonters, need representation during this period of transition in energy policy, and the Legislature needs to pursue constructive recommendations that were voiced during the DPS evaluation process but ignored, in fact edited out, by the commissioner in the final draft.
Similarly, the DPS chose to edit out recent declines in oil prices in the cost data that the agency fed to the Public Service Board to use as a basis for determining the value of the Vermont Gas Systems Addison pipeline. Commissioner Recchia has a history of editing the truth in order to expedite the governor’s agenda.
And the Legislature looks ready to give the commissioner a pass. When the committee member laughingly compared Commissioner Recchia to Gen. Grant last Thursday, he quoted Lincoln’s statement that the general’s drinking problem had to be overlooked in the face of his great talent. Commissioner Recchia’s talent is not apparent to those of us who have been watching the VGS proceedings drag on and on, and a truth problem is not one that can be overlooked in any public official.
I hope that the casual chat last week between the Finance Committee and Commissioner Recchia was only the beginning of a more thorough investigation of how well (or not well) the DPS is serving the public and the ratepayers of Vermont.
Bobbie Carnwath

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