(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin wants to appoint Vermont’s top utility regulator to another six-year term.
Jim Volz chairs the Public Service Board. The three-member panel deals with a range of utility issues, including rate cases, wind projects – and possibly – the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) The 61-year-old Volz is a veteran regulator who was first named to chair the PSB in 2005 by then-Governor Jim Douglas. Before that, he worked as director for public advocacy for the Department of Public Service – essentially acting as the lawyer for the public in cases before the board.
Shumlin said he was impressed with Volz’s reputation for fairness and professionalism.
(Shumlin) "It would be impossible to find someone as balanced, as fair, as objective and as decent as Jim Volz."
(Dillon) The PSB chairman said he and Shumlin have not talked about pending cases before the board. He said that would be a breach of legal ethics, since he has to decide those cases independently and without influence from the governor’s office.
But Volz did offer a few thoughts about Vermont Yankee. The plant recently won a new 20-year operating license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But it still needs approval from the Legislature before the PSB can rule on Yankee’s request for a state certificate to operate past its scheduled shutdown next year.
Volz said the state should get ready for a future without Vermont Yankee.
(Volz) "Right now the status of Vermont Yankee is that there’s a statute that says it can’t continue operating unless the Legislature gives approval. The Legislature voted on that negatively in a very strong way. So I have to assume at this time that it’s not going to continue operating and we have to be prepared for that."
(Dillon) And the Public Service Board chairman said the region will have adequate electricity supplies without Vermont Yankee on line.
(Volz) "I think we’re quite prepared. There’s a market in New England where utilities can buy power. The utilities are taking steps to work with the Independent System Operator of New England to make sure that there won’t be a reliability problem if that plant’s not operating."
(Dillon) Volz said the board’s major projects include telecommunications issues – how to extend broadband service throughout the state, and implementing the state’s renewable energy plans.
His reappointment to the board is likely but not absolutely guaranteed. The governor has asked the Judicial Nominating Board to begin the screening process for nominations. The nominating board then presents the governor with a list of qualified applicants and he can choose someone from that list.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.