Senate panel approves controversial PSC nominee -- Gazette.Net


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A controversial appointee to the Maryland Public Service commission has received support from a committee of Maryland lawmakers, despite some constituent opposition.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend to the Senate the appointment of Anne E. Hoskins to the PSC. The full Senate must now vote on the nomination.

Among those in favor were Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville and Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase.

Gov. Martin J. O'Malley (D) nominated Hoskins, a Harvard-educated lawyer, in August to fill a vacancy on the commission. O'Malley created the vacancy in January 2013 when he appointed then-PSC Chairman Douglas R.M. Nazarian to the Court of Special Appeals.

Coming to the PSC from an executive role at a New Jersey utility, Hoskins' appointment raised eyebrows among utility watchdog groups that questioned her ability to be a fair regulator, and that feared she would round out a pro-utility majority voting block on the Public Service Commission.

Initially told they could not speak at the hearing and told they could not even enter the hearing room Monday, citizens opposed to the appointment were given a chance to select a representative to voice their concerns to the committee.

Speaking for those concerned by the appointment, Montgomery County reliable power advocate Abbe Milstein said Hoskins comes from a utility company with reputation of nuclear contamination.

And in her five months on the PSC, Hoskins has established a pro-utility record, voting to authorize a tracker for Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), said Milstein, a lawyer and founder of Powerupmontco, an online organization for reliable power.

Trackers are a surcharge that allow utilities to charge customers for projects as it does the work, rather than petitioning the Public Service Commission months after project completion for reimbursement. "We have a disconnect between what the people need, what the utilities want and what it means to serve the public," Milstein said. "I am asking you not to support Ms. Hoskins' nomination on the committee today because she has been a long-standing person of utility background."

"We would very much like you to consider the possibility of looking into a person who is interested in the public, interested in reliability, interested in dealing with our utilities in a very conservative way and not giving them rate increases," Milstein said.

While appreciative of public participation, Hoskins said the picture painted of her is not the full picture of who she is, and was "surreal."

While working for the utility, Hoskins said she also served with numerous outside organizations to better understand their concerns. She said she also worked for a number of years to advance legislation to strengthen clean air rules, to allow for cap and trade and for renewable portfolios. And the nuclear contamination happened before she worked there.

Hoskins said she learned a lot about utilities while working for one.

"Really, what I think I will be able to contribute, probably more valuably than anything else, is that I do know the questions to ask these utilities," she said. "You can be assured if you confirm me, I will give this my all."

Frosh said he knows both Milstein and Hoskins, as Milstein is a constituent and Hoskins once lived in Bethesda.

"I share Abbe's perspective about many things the PSC has done," he said, adding that he also supports Hoskins' appointment.

"I believe that Anne will be fair and unbiased and she certainly is knowledgeable," he said.

PSC Commissioner Harold D. Williams and Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore spoke in favor of Hoskins' appointment.

Sen. Delores G. Kelley (D-Dist. 10) of Randallstown said the committee recommendation will go to the Senate floor, likely for a vote on Friday.

kalexander@gazette.net