Tensions between Commissioner Curt Hebert Jr. and some fellowcommissioners, which have been rumored to be running high over thepast months, boiled over in the public meeting last week when thecombative regulator publicly labeled as “disingenu[ous] andintellectually dishonest” the majority’s decision in ahydroelectric dam decommissioning case.

Commissioner William Massey, who obviously was annoyed,questioned Hebert about whether the highly charged remarks weredirected at Commission colleagues personally. “I want to getclarification on that because it’s important to me in our futurerelationship, Curt, frankly,” he said. “Disingenu[ous], if appliedto the motivations of one of your fellow commissioners voting forthis order, would be fairly harsh.”

Hebert shot back that his attack wasn’t personal, but rather wasaimed at the order. “I think I’ve made that clear. CommissionerMassey, you and I have had a wonderful relationship, and it is mybelief that we will continue to do so unless you chooseotherwise…I’m certainly not attacking you personally. I knowyou’re not looking for an apology and I’m certainly not going togive one because I do believe in my position.”

Responding to Hebert’s criticism, Chairman James Hoecker saidthe decisions “represent a high degree of intellectual integrity,and they do not represent a political agenda.”

The war of words preceded the FERC majority’s decision, by anarrow vote of 3-2, to uphold a November order calling for thedecommissioning of a hydroelectric dam in Maine. Hebert, whosupported vacating the controversial order, filibustered hisposition for nearly two hours, accusing the majority ofoverstepping its authority under the Federal Power Act by orderingthe decommissioning of the Edwards Manufacturing dam. CommissionerVicky Bailey sided with Hebert on the issue, but was much lessvocal.

Afterwards, Hebert said “absolutely not” when asked if hethought the heated debate might have hurt his relations with theother commissioners. “I would hope that a professional debatewouldn’t damage anyone’s outlook on how we work together. I thinkhe [Massey] appeared to be a little bit bothered, but I hope Istraightened that out with the answer that it wasn’t personal.”

As a professional lawyer, Hebert said he’s accustomed to doingbattle with attorney-friends in the courtroom, and “then we go havelunch together and a cold drink after work that day. My experienceis lawyers are good at that.”

As a FERC commissioner, “I’m paid $118,000 a year to do my bestjob possible on the issues, and I tried to put $118,000 worth into[last Wednesday’s] debate,” he told NGI. Critics say “‘Curt, yourcomments sure were lively.’ But if we had vacated the order by avote of 3-2, what do you think the other two would have said. Iassure you their debate would have been as furious as mine was.”

Susan Parker

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