by Max Brantley
It's a time-honored tradition for candidates for attorney general to go after utility ratemaking issues and so Gunner DeLay is following many before him in issuing a call today for Public Service Commission reform.
His key points:
1) Elect members of the PSC
2) Require PSC members to attend all public hearings.
3) Hold PSC members to rules of judicial conduct, such as limitations on contact with litigants in a proceeding.
4) Prohibit staff from taking a position in rate cases. (He thinks this makes it hard for the Commission to be objective.)
5) Bar staff and PSC members from taking utility jobs for two years after leaving the PSC
We give him a bravo on No. 5. Overall, we'd say the subject is fair and ripe for discussion, though the state commissions are hamstrung in many cases by forces, such as wholesale ratemaking and supply, outside their control.
But as for No. 1, we have a one-word response to the notion of electing the PSC: Louisiana. It's a state we don't want to emulate. I say that as a native.
UPDATE: Dustin McDaniel, a Democratic candidate for a.g., responds:
"The Attorney General's job is to represent ratepayers in front of the PSC, and restructuring it is the Governor's job. If elected, I will do my job, and I know Mike Beebe will do his."
Now comes Democrat Paul Suskie:
“As Attorney General I will be an aggressive and forceful advocate for the Arkansas consumer. I will support and applaud the Public Service Commission when I think they have made decisions that are good for consumers and I will fight them tooth and nail when I believe they are making decisions that are bad. One of the focal points of my administration will be to work hand in hand with the Commission, Governor, Legislature and consumers to stop Louisiana from shifting $2 billion in electricity costs to Arkansas. It’s not right to penalize Arkansas because Louisiana officials will not make the hard political decisions to shut down expensive inefficient power plants. As Attorney General, I will fight with all my energy and resources to stop this attempt to saddle Arkansas consumers with Louisiana’s sky high electric bills.”