A former New Jersey power company executive will serve on Maryland’s Public Service Commission, and her appointment has raised a few eyebrows in Montgomery County.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) appointed Anne E. Hoskins of Baltimore earlier this month to replace Kevin Hughes. O’Malley appointed Hughes as chairman of the commission after Douglas R.M. Nazarian resigned. Nazarian resigned when he was appointed by O’Malley as a judge on the Court of Special Appeals.
Hoskins served as senior vice president of public affairs and sustainability for the New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group for more than six years, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office. She holds a law degree from Harvard, a master’s degree from Princeton and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell, according to the release.
Public Service Enterprise Group is New Jersey’s largest investor-owned utility and one of the 10 largest electric companies in the U.S., according to its website. Its gas and electric division serves 1.8 million gas customers and 2.2 million electric customers.
While with Public Service Enterprise Group, Hoskins developed and led federal and state government affairs advocacy and policy initiatives and advocated for climate and energy legislation and EPA regulations to reduce pollution impacts from power production, the release said.
O’Malley said Hoskins understands the importance of a resilient electric grid in the face of increasingly severe weather, according to the release.
But some have questioned the governor’s judgment in appointing a former executive from an investor-owned utility to regulate similar companies in Maryland.
“I have no reason to question her capabilities per se,” Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner said. “But that is not why people’s eyebrows went up.”
Berliner, an energy attorney, said what is curious about the appointment was governor’s decision to pick a utility executive to fill the slot.
Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said historically a concern of ratepayers is that the PSC is too close to the utility perspective.
He said the administration hailed Hoskins as someone with utility expertise, but there are any number of people who have that expertise yet don’t come from the utility sector.
“We do need expertise, but we need this commission to lead in ways it has yet to do,” he said.
Governor’s Office spokeswoman Stephanie Palla said Hoskins was vetted thoroughly before being appointed.
Abbe Milstein of Powerupmontco said Tuesday the decision to appoint a utility executive was her main concern.
“I would want someone who would do as O’Malley said he would do, which is hold these utilities’ feet to the fire,” Milstein said.
But the governor’s choice was clearly to put a pro-utility vote on the commission, she said.
Beyond Hoskins’ assumed leaning, Milstein said in a statement Monday that Public Service Enterprise Group has one of the worst track records in the nation for nuclear contamination and a history of air pollution.
“Grid Resiliency might be the least of our worries now that Anne is on the Maryland Public Service Commission,” Milstein wrote.
In 2013, University of Massachusetts Amherst ranked Public Service Enterprise Group 12th on its Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index. The index identifies the top U.S. air polluters among the world’s largest corporations using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) — which assess the chronic human health risk from industrial toxic releases.