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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Inos revives CUC board
Of 3 appointees, 2 need Legislature’s consent

Making true to his promise of reviving the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s board of directors, Gov. Eloy S. Inos appointed three individuals to serve on the CUC board. Two will need the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Representatives. The current Commonwealth Development Authority board chairman will have automatic CUC board membership.

Lawmakers welcomed the governor’s latest move, hoping that this would help start a shift to renewable energy and lower utility rates.

“I hope that they work expeditiously on the RFP [request for proposals] for alternative baseload power plant so that the consumers of CUC can see a reduction in power rates,” House Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee vice chair Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

The governor appointed Diego M. Songao, chairman of the CDA board of directors, to serve on the CUC board.

The governor said pursuant to 4 CMC Section 8131(a)(1), the chairman of the CDA board of directors “shall serve as a member of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.”

Inos said Songao’s term as CUC board member “begins immediately” and will run concurrent with his term as CDA board chairman.

“This appointment does not require legislative advice and consent,” Inos said in his Dec. 23 appointment letter to Songao, a copy of which was released to the media only yesterday.

The governor also appointed Adelina Roberto and Christopher A. Concepcion to serve on the CUC board.

Unlike Songao, Roberto and Concepcion’s initial appointments require the advice and consent of both the Senate and House. Both will represent Saipan on the board, while Songao represents Rota.

If confirmed, Roberto and Concepcion will each serve a four-year term beginning on the date confirmed by both chambers of the Legislature.

The counting of the four-year term starts on the date approved by the upper house of the Legislature.

Inos said he is fully aware of the important work before the CUC board, and he is confident that the appointees are qualified and will be an asset to the board.

The appointees are required to file a statement of financial interest with the Office of the Public Auditor, a copy of their résumé, police clearance, drug test receipt, and drug test result.

Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), chairman of the House PUTC Committee, separately said yesterday that the CNMI “needs a board to govern an autonomous entity.”

“CUC is way out on their own, that’s why many lawsuits [are filed]. I wish they would be confirmed tomorrow,” he said.

Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan), chairman of the Senate PUTC Committee, also looks forward to a functioning CUC board.

“We need to get things done and I’m not convinced that CUC board is not needed. Lots of crazy rate increases kept popping up and little or snail pace effort to move us out of diesel engine operations without further studying last year and many years of study. I’m tired of studies and poor action. So I welcome CUC board and pray we can provide some relief to residents and commercial customers,” Reyes said.

Months back, Inos said would start nominating qualified individuals to serve on the CUC board, which will be revived years after CUC was placed directly under the governor or his representative’s control.

But finding the right persons that meet the complex statutory qualifications and making sure those qualified persons would want to volunteer had been a challenge.

Inos, like his predecessors, has been extending many of the provisions of an executive order declaring a state of emergency for CUC.

The continuing CUC emergency declaration cites the continued need to employ skilled technical foreign workers in the absence of qualified U.S. citizen workers, and a lack of a functioning CUC board.

The CUC emergency declaration also allows the governor to reprogram funds, and suspend procurement laws or rules to address the CUC emergency.

CUC is still owed some $18 million by the Public School System and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. in unpaid utility billings. Millions more are owed by residential customers of CUC.

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