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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Utility commission job sits open as cases stack up"

That is the headline to this story by John Russell in this week's $$ issue of the IBJ. A few quotes:

Yet for more than two months, one of the five seats on the agency has remained empty as the workload piles up. The state has not even put out a call for interested candidates.

That’s despite a law that requires a bipartisan committee to review applications and submit names of three candidates to the governor within 40 days of the vacancy. That deadline passed nearly three weeks ago. * * *

The agency has a full agenda, with petitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars hanging in the balance for grid upgrades, efficiency programs, environmental improvements for power plants and other issues. Indianapolis Power & Light Co., for example, just filed a case asking permission to pass along $100 million in costs for pollution controls on its Petersburg coal-fired power plant.

“I can’t imagine how four commissioners can manage the caseload,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. * * *

The current vacancy occurred in April when Carolene R. Mays resigned after Gov. Mike Pence appointed her executive director of the White River State Park Development Commission, an organization that operates 250 acres of state property on the east and west sides of the White River downtown.

Mays had served on the IURC since 2010. She was previously publisher of the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper and the Indiana Minority Business magazine.

The delay in filling the vacancy is caused, at least in part, by the fact that the nominating committee that screens candidates does not have a chair. The previous chairwoman, Gwen Horth, resigned last year after Pence named her chairwoman of the Indiana Parole Board. * * *

[Even after the nominating commission has a chair, not anyone can apply for the IURC vacancy...] But not just anyone can apply. Under state law, no more than three of the five commissioners can belong to one political party. Today, three of the four current commissioners are Republicans: Carol Stephan, Angela Weber and Jim Huston, all of whom were appointed by Pence in 2014.

The only Democrat is David Ziegner, a lawyer appointed in 1990 by Gov. Evan Bayh.

That means the current vacancy must be filled by a Democrat. It also means the longer the seat remains unfilled, the longer the Republicans have a 3-to-1 sway on the commission. * * *

“There needs to be a balance of perspective and viewpoints on the commission,” said Perras of the Sierra Club. “This vacancy needs to be filled by a good candidate as soon as possible.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 22, 2016 09:32 AM
Posted to Indiana Government