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Thursday, April 17, 2014

CPUC opposes the continued CUC emergency declarations

Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission chair Joseph C. Guerrero says the commission disagrees with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s continued extension of his declaration of a state of emergency for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and, “most importantly,” the suspension of CPUC’s regulatory oversight of CUC.

Guerrero wrote a letter to Fitial on Dec. 26 advising the governor of CPUC commissioners’ reservations regarding the CUC executive orders.

However, about a month later or on Jan. 18, the governor extended anew the CUC emergency declaration, along with that of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan), chairman of the House Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Commission, said the utilities commission has sought the help of the Legislature in bringing the matter to the Fitial administration’s attention.

The commission chair pointed out that Public Law 15-35 vests the commission with the authority to review for approval or disapproval any contractual agreement CUC enters into that may increase rates and charges to consumers.

He said CUC must also receive CPUC’s approval before completing a significant purchase of capital for the production or transmission of electricity.

During the governor’s CUC emergency declarations suspending CPUC authority, the governor and his former attorney general signed a no-bid $190.8 million power purchase agreement for 25 years and a request for proposal that’s now being drafted for at least a 40-megawatt power plant may not also undergo CPUC review.

Guerrero said PL 15-35 also makes CPUC, rather than the Judiciary, the initial entity for reviewing and hearing customer complaints regarding CUC’s operations.

The CPUC chair attached a copy of CPUC legal counsel G. Anthony Long’s opinion articulating the legal basis for the commissioners’ concerns regarding the executive orders. Guerrero also asked for a meeting with Fitial since December, but to no avail. Besides Guerrero, the other commissioners are Zenie Mafnas and Oscar Quitugua.

Members of the House leadership including Vice Speaker Frank dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) have vowed to scrutinize of the governor’s emergency declarations, but first they have to amend an existing law to give teeth to any legislative objection to the governor’s executive orders.

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