Tuesday, March 19, 2019

NARUC Head Seeks Open NEPOOL; Water-Energy Focus

By Michael Kuser

Connecticut regulator John W. “Jack” Betkoski III, the new president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, last week called for more transparency at the New England Power Pool and said he plans to focus his NARUC tenure on the “water-energy nexus.”

Betkoski, vice chairman of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, had been serving as NARUC’s first vice president before assuming the presidency on Aug. 14 from former Pennsylvania regulator — now FERC Commissioner — Robert Powelson. He will complete Powelson’s term and in November begin a full 12-month term.

In an interview, Betkoski told RTO Insider about his priorities at NARUC.

“You usually roll [priorities] out in November, but I’m probably going to [do] something with the whole water-energy nexus,” he said. “That’s certainly very important to what we do as regulators. You need both water for energy and energy for water. It’s something that we as regulators could highlight. I’ve always felt very passionate about the water cases that I’ve been involved in.”

NARUC committees set up to explore the issue would be divided equally between electric and water utility regulation, he added.

“Thank goodness that we have iPads and computers and everything else, because I can certainly fill my responsibilities here in Connecticut with my dockets but also be doing the great work we have to do with the national organization,” Betkoski said. “There’s so much going on, and the whole re-composition of [a quorum] at FERC, that’s going to be something that in my new role we’ll be getting reacclimated to, a fully staffed FERC organization within the next couple months.”

Betkoski declined to comment on dockets currently before PURA, on the state-federal tensions that prompted a FERC technical conference in May or on PURA’s role under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s executive order to assess the economic viability of Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear plant. “Katie is the lead commissioner on that joint proceeding,” he said, referring to PURA Chair Katie Dykes. (See related story, Commenters Seek Broader Response on Millstone, Renewables.)

Betkoski also demurred on elaborating on his plans for NARUC and the water theme: “It’s not even a week since I took over, so it’s really transitional right now.”

NEPOOL Transparency

Betkoski was surprised to learn last year that most stakeholder meetings of the New England Power Pool, which advises ISO-NE, are closed to the public and the press. Most meetings of the other six RTOs and ISOs are open.

NEPOOL is “doing something that impacts ratepayers, and anything like that should be as transparent as possible,” Betkoski said. “I know that’s certainly the way we operate here. I’ve been a commissioner for 20 years, and certainly I encourage people to come to public hearings and certainly have never kicked journalists out of public hearings, and I think the same should hold true for them.”

naruc nepool dominion energy

Jack Betkoski talks about storm-related outages on a TV program in November 2013 | Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority

If a discussion concerns proprietary information, the regulatory agency can go into executive session, but other than that the meetings should be open, he said.

Betkoski will be formally installed as president in November at NARUC’s Annual Meeting and Educational Conference in Baltimore. Wisconsin Public Service Commission Chair Ellen Nowak will also be formally installed as first vice president in Baltimore, while the second vice president position she is vacating will be filled at the same meeting.

A Democrat from Beacon Falls, Betkoski has served on Connecticut’s utility regulatory authority since 1997, when it was known as the Department of Public Utility Control. Malloy appointed Betkoski to the newly created PURA in 2011 and reappointed him to a four-year term that began in 2015. He is a past president of the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners.

He has served on NARUC’s executive committee since 2012 and is currently chairman of the Connecticut Water Planning Council and a member of the American Water Works Association Research Foundation’s Public Council on Drinking Water Research. He previously served as a member of the EPA National Drinking Water Advisory Council’s Water Security Working Group.