Late Monday, the Scott administration initiated the process for filling a pending vacancy on the Public Utility Commission. The PUC is a three-member body with broad authority over electricity, natural gas, cable TV and telecommunications in Vermont. During the Phil Scott years, it has consistently applied the brakes on development of renewable energy.
This, despite the fact that it has had two Democratic appointees, one of them being Margaret Cheney, wife of U.S. Rep. Peter Welch. I don’t know why the two Dems have played along with the renewables slowdown, which has included strict noise rules for large-scale wind installations and a steady ratcheting down of the net-metering rate (the amount utilities are required to pay for power generated by solar installations).
And recently, VTDigger reported that the PUC had rejected a study that showed major savings from solar power in the Northeast. Yeah, they’re not exactly green-friendly.
And now, one of the two Democrats is exiting the commission. Sarah
Hoffman Hofmann was appointed to a six-year term by then-governor Peter Shumlin in 2015, and her term expires this year. On Monday, the administration issued a press release seeking applicants for the position. It did not explain the circumstances of the vacancy, so we don’t know whether (a) Hoffman Hofmann is stepping down or (b) Scott wants to replace her.
The upshot is that Scott appointees will soon hold a 2-1 majority on the PUC, including chair Tony Roisman. Cheney and
Hoffman Hofmann haven’t exactly been friendly to green power, but a Scott appointee will inevitably support the governor’s anti-renewable agenda.
And no matter how long Scott is governor, his appointees will dominate the commission for at least four more years. It’s one of the small costs of Scott’s re-election, and another reason why Democrats who voted for Scott can’t really claim to support climate action. Because as I wrote in October, the governor gives plenty of lip service to the issue, but opposes any meaningful policy changes. His choice for Hofmann’s replacement will be expected to toe the administration’s line.
Note: Updated 12/29 to correct misspelling of Commissioner Hofmann’s name.