The Charleston Gazette published my op-ed piece this morning. In late August, the WV PSC announced that Commissioner Ryan Palmer was leaving the Commission to take a job with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. In his five years on the PSC, Mr. Palmer has served with independence and distinction, defending our state and our people. I am very sorry to see him go. His departure is a distressing sign of the brain drain that afflicts the backward and stagnant state of WV’s state government. We need more regulators like Mr. Palmer, and we need them now.
Because Mr. Palmer was appointed by then-Gov. Manchin from the governor’s staff, I was initially skeptical of Commissioner Palmer’s independence from the paralyzed Manchin mindset. During his tenure, Mr. Palmer proved me wrong.
He was hard working, smart and embraced reality, unlike his corporate-backed colleagues on the Commission. Mr. Palmer reached the height of his work on the PSC with his incisive dissent in the FirstEnergy Harrison power plant fiasco. For the last several years, I have worked for passage of legislation ordering the PSC to begin using strong integrated resource planning in managing our state’s electric utility practices. Every year, at the Legislature’s sessions, I also ran into Mr. Palmer speaking about IRP with legislators, educating them about how other states did it and informing them about how the WV PSC works.
Over time, Ryan Palmer showed us what a really independent PSC Commissioner looks like.
Now it is up to Gov. Tomblin to appoint a replacement for Mr. Palmer. West Virginians need to step up and let the Governor know that we want a Commissioner who will stand up for our state against out-of-state holding companies like AEP, FirstEnergy and American Waterworks (the NJ company that controls WV American Water). We need a new Commissioner who is not beholden to corporate law firms like Jackson Kelly which regularly represent these holding companies before the PSC.
If you think independence and competence are more important than corporate cronyism on the WV PSC, let Gov. Tomblin’s office know right now. There are rumors circulating in Charleston that Gov. Tomblin is closing in on his nomination. Let him know how you feel today. As I say in my op-ed piece:
In the past, governors made PSC appointments without public involvement or explanation. Now, and in the future, we need to have open, public discussion of candidates and their qualifications. West Virginia deserves better than back-room deals for a regulatory commission that reaches so deeply into the lives (and pockets) of the people of our state.