On June 21, the New York State Senate confirmed three Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointees to the New York Public Service Commission.
John B. Rhodes, James Alesi and Philip Wilcox were confirmed by the Senate to serve as PSC Commissioners. The Senate also reconfirmed Diane X. Burman for a six-year term as a PSC Commissioner. Cuomo also tapped Rhodes to serve as the commission’s chairman.
“My focus will be on advancing New York’s energy agenda, and continue the excellent work of PSC to reform the energy industry to be more consumer-focused, efficient, and environmentally friendly,” says Rhodes, who recently served as the CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “Our commitment will remain on building an energy system that is affordable, cleaner, and more resilient through the greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
The commission also determines sites of major gas and electric transmission facilities and is responsible the safety of natural gas and liquid petroleum pipelines.
The bipartisan commission consists of up to five members who serve a term of six years or to complete an unexpired term of a former commissioner. Each commissioner is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
Despite the bipartisan nature of the commission, some believe the commission has become a rubber stamp for Cuomo initiatives. The new commission members are also known to be political allies of Cuomo, who has taken a hands-on approach to the New York State energy policies. For example, Cuomo has negotiated and announced energy deals that are typically the responsibility of the PSC.
Also, Cuomo supported the PSC’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which creates subsidies for renewable and nuclear energy and offers ratepayer-funded investments in clean energy technology. Cuomo also appointed former Goldman Sachs executive Richard Kauffman as the state’s energy and finance chair, also known as the energy czar. In this role Kauffman serves as the chairman of the board for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Although not a member of PSC, Kauffman has met with utility company executives about rates and regulations.