Article

GOP appointee set to run DTE

Last May, in a move some industry officials say contributed to her promotion to chairwoman, Judson voted against approvals for an 18-mile, mostly undersea power cable crucial to the 130-turbine Cape Wind electric generation project in Nantucket Sound, which Romney opposes.

Judith F. Judson, a Topsfield Republican whom Governor Mitt Romney named to the state utility commission last year after she lost a race for state representative, will be promoted to chairwoman of the agency next week, officials said yesterday.

Judson, 32, will replace Paul G. Afonso, a West Roxbury Democrat whose three-year term is expiring. Afonso will remain a commissioner of the Department of Telecommunications and Energy, serving out the remaining year of Judson's term, Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said.

The switch is unlikely to lead to big changes at the DTE, which for the last decade has generally been considered friendly -- critics say overly so -- to the electric and gas utilities it regulates, approving most of their rate requests without major changes or investigations.

The department also has limited jurisdiction over telecommunications companies, including Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.; is responsible for safety inspections of 8,000 buses; and sets rates for 31 private water utilities.

''It's critical for the DTE to play a strong role in overseeing the [energy] industry," said Frank Gorke, energy advocate for the Massachusetts Public Interest... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Judith F. Judson, a Topsfield Republican whom Governor Mitt Romney named to the state utility commission last year after she lost a race for state representative, will be promoted to chairwoman of the agency next week, officials said yesterday.

Judson, 32, will replace Paul G. Afonso, a West Roxbury Democrat whose three-year term is expiring. Afonso will remain a commissioner of the Department of Telecommunications and Energy, serving out the remaining year of Judson's term, Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said.

The switch is unlikely to lead to big changes at the DTE, which for the last decade has generally been considered friendly -- critics say overly so -- to the electric and gas utilities it regulates, approving most of their rate requests without major changes or investigations.

The department also has limited jurisdiction over telecommunications companies, including Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.; is responsible for safety inspections of 8,000 buses; and sets rates for 31 private water utilities.

''It's critical for the DTE to play a strong role in overseeing the [energy] industry," said Frank Gorke, energy advocate for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and environmental lobbying group. ''State regulators have to step in and be aggressive about protecting consumers and the environment."

Utility rate requests usually get rubber-stamped without close scrutiny, Gorke said, and the DTE has not pushed hard enough to make utilities buy more electricity from ''green" sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric generation.

Judson and Afonso did not return calls. Teer said in an e-mail that ''I can confirm" Judson is replacing Afonso as head of the DTE next week, but she had no further comment. Aides to Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, who represents consumer interests in DTE rate cases, had no comment either.

DTE commissioner James Connelly, a Hingham Republican who was demoted from chairman by Acting Governor Jane M. Swift in the summer of 2002, was reappointed by Romney to another three-year term.

When Judson was first named to the DTE post, Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Philip W. Johnston slammed the appointment as a ''patronage appointment by a governor who has pledged not to use patronage."

Judson was campaign field manager for Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey during their 2002 campaign and ran for state representative last year, losing to incumbent Representative Theodore C. Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat now serving his ninth term. Judson campaigned for a cut in the state income tax and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

Johnston yesterday said he still thinks Judson's appointment violated pledges by Romney not to give state jobs to failed legislative candidates, but said of Judson herself, ''She certainly is qualified. She has strong academic credentials, and she's been a commissioner."

Judson, a Harvard Business School graduate, had earlier served as chief of staff in the state Department of Business and Industry and chief operating officer for technology inventors Sperry Product Innovation Inc. of Woburn. She has also worked in management consulting and real estate development.

Last May, in a move some industry officials say contributed to her promotion to chairwoman, Judson voted against approvals for an 18-mile, mostly undersea power cable crucial to the 130-turbine Cape Wind electric generation project in Nantucket Sound, which Romney opposes. Afonso, however, joined the 5-2 majority at the DTE-affiliated Energy Facilities Siting Board, which approved the cable. Afonso and other board members said they had to stick to narrow technical questions about the cable itself and could not fairly reject it to stymie Cape Wind.

But Joseph Donovan, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Economic Development, which includes the DTE, said it was standard practice to rotate the chairmanship.

Source: http://www.boston.com/busin...

DEC 29 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/845-gop-appointee-set-to-run-dte
back to top