Sunday, November 19, 2006

PSC: Disinterested or Uninterested?

Yesterday this article in the OD revealed that requests by Utica and other parties for additional information on the NYRI project had been "rebuffed for now" by the Public Service Commission.

On November 10, the PSC issued its Order. It is very lengthy and goes into excruciating mind-numbing detail.

The Commission can't see the forest for the trees.

The public is still asking, "Who is NYRI?" To its credit, the Department of Public Service Staff (i.e., the career civil servants) requested a description of the Applicant's organizational structure ". . .that clearly identifies its lines of ownership and responsibility . . ." The Staff also wants assurances that NYRI has the financial resources to start and sustain the project.

The response from the Commission, however, seems duplicitous:

"While our regulations do not specifically require the
submission of this information, we agree with Staff that the
Applicant's financial and organizational abilities are matters
that may bear directly on the interests of the public. The
information Staff identifies, however, seems preliminary and, in
our view, could benefit from some initial discovery. Should the
parties thereafter desire additional information that cannot be
obtained through discovery, a further motion to supplement the
record can be entertained." [see p 50-51 out of 53].

Basically, the Commission is telling its own Staff, the City of Utica, and the public to go pound sand . . . that IT is not interested in the information, and that if the Staff and others think the information is important, they will have to dig for it themselves. Knowing how important this information is to the public, and knowing the possibility of Federal intervention if proceedings drag on, the Commission appears to be setting the stage to create a delay it can use to wash its hands of the situation.

This is the Commission that we have come to know as not serving the Public . . . a Commission that has managed New York into having among the highest utility rates in the country in spite of its abundance of cheap hydropower . . . a Commission whose standards for determining "environmental compatibility" of a project are vague and ripe to be interpreted to the likes of insiders . . . a Commission we have come to distrust.

As we have previously explained, the public has a right to know "Who is NYRI?" The fitness of an applicant for a State license is an issue this is always on the table. The State has an obligation to protect the public from those who may be unfit to hold the license. The Department of Environmental Conservation gets this information from applicants who don't have track records. The State Liquor Authority gets this information. Even the State Racing and Wagering Board gets this information [consider the delays this region experienced in getting Vernon Downs reopened by a "fit" license holder]. But PSC doesn't get it. Apparently, PSC thinks the public needs less protection from a power line company than from the people running liquor stores or race tracks.

The Commission's behavior is baffling. It gives an appearance of serving private interests.

We hope the new administration will put consideration of the Public back into the Public Service Commission.

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