Green Mountain Power Proposes New ‘Public Trust’

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(Host) Green Mountain Power and Gaz Metro’s surprise offer to purchase Central Vermont Public Service is getting a closer look today. 

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, one aspect that’s generating a lot of buzz is GMP’s proposal to create a public trust with joint shares of Velco.

(Keck) If CVPS shareholders and utility regulators agree to the sale- Vermont’s new uber-utility would own about 70 percent of Velco, the state’s energy transmission company which was created over 50 years ago to ensure a reliable power grid for all utilities in the state.   

(Hallquist) "I am nervous about that kind of an ownership model."

(Keck) That’s David Hallquist,he’s CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative and a member of Velco’s Board of Directors. Green Mountain Power has been a very reputable company he says.  Butthere’s a concern that combined with CVPS they would control too much of Velco.   Hallquist says GMP’s offer to turn 30 percent of the companies’ combined Velco shares into a public trust to benefit low income Vermonters is an intriguing way to ease that concern.   Sarah Hoffman Deputy Commissioner of Vermont Department of Public Service agrees. 

(Hoffman) "Obviously – for low income Vermonters, this could be a great asset for them.  But we’re going to have to look at all the moving pieces of how this conveyance of this chunk of Velco into a public interest trust will work."

(keck)  According to Velco CEO, Chris Dutton,who was the former president of Green Mountain Power, a 30% trust wouldgenerateabout one million dollars a year.   While he says there is a perception that the proposed sale might compromise Velco, he believes the concern is misguided.

(Dutton) "Velco in its charter documents going back to the time it was created in the 1950s  had provisions that says no one who has a majority interest in Velcocould use that majority in anything than an impartial way."

(Keck)  He also discounts fears he’s heard that a major transmission line would be built to send power from Canada to southern New England not benefiting Vermonters.  He says the state’s regulatory agencies wouldn’t allow that.

(Dutton) "The real question is which of two competing transactions provides the greater customer benefits?"

(Keck) The deal proposed by Canadian utility company Fortis last month or the offer from Gaz Metro and Green Mountain Power? Sarah Hoffman of the Vermont Department of Public Service says once CVPS share holders weigh in, state regulators can step in.

(Hoffman) "At this point our job at the department is to make sure the general good of the state and the rate payers are protected so our investigation will focus on what kind of rate payer benefits there are and what kind of state benefits there are.And there will be a lot of investigation before we submit any testimony to the public service board."

(Keck) Hoffman says having two bids to considerwill actually be helpful during that process because the public and regulatory agencies will be able to openly compare the pros and cons of each.  

For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck.


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