Ousted PUC Commissioner Blames Vengeful Utilities
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will go from being "a
watchdog to a lapdog," Commissioner John Hanger commented following
the announcement last week that the governor had chosen Chester, PA, Mayor
Aaron Wilson Jr. to replace Hanger.
"Gov. Ridge fired me because I am independent and because I have
led the charge to replace electric, telephone and gas monopolies with genuine
competition," Hanger said. He blamed Peco Energy and Bell Atlantic
Corp. for leading the fight against his renomination when his five-year
PUC term expired April 1.
"Tom Ridge placed the politics of pleasing powerful interests before
the interests of ordinary Pennsylvanians who have no Harrisburg lobbyists
and who cannot give Tom Ridge tens of thousands of dollars to buy their
way into Tom Ridge's governor's club of high rollers," Hanger said
in a statement. The outgoing commissioner had led the fight for a real
electric restructuring law in the state and to overturn and restructure
Peco Energy's settlement under that law (Please
see NGI May 18, p.1). After making the announcement and before leaving
the country on a 10-day overseas trade mission, Ridge denied the utility
companies had influenced his choice.
"The PUC has been divided 3 to 2 between commissioners who are
committed to genuine competition and commissioners who have voted in the
key electric and telephone cases in a way that would delay, weaken or destroy
both electric or telephone competition." The chairman and vice chairman
are in the pro-monopoly camp, Hanger said. The decision to reject Peco
Energy's initial restructuring offer was 3-2.
Wilson, 62, is a retired educator with no public utility experience.
He was elected mayor of Chester two years ago. Contacted by NGI when his
name first surfaced as a possible candidate several weeks ago, Wilson said
no one had notified or talked to him in advance about a possible appointment.
He said his only utility experience was dealing with utilities for the
City of Chester. "That's mainly Peco Energy. They have served the
city well. They have a lot of property here." Wilson was called in
to see the governor on May 20 and his nomination was announced two days
Hanger said he is challenging the governor's action "in the hope
that enough attention will be paid to the Public Utility Commission so
that genuine electric competition will not be rolled back, and that finally
the PUC will do what is necessary to break Bell Atlantic's nearly complete
monopoly and enforce the laws requiring telephone competition."
Hanger said he had tentatively decided to continue to serve during the
allowed grace period until his successor is confirmed by the state legislature.
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