Newly-inducted member of the 30th Legislature, Senator Judi Buckley, (I-STX) said Wednesday she is pleased with her appointment as a non-voting, ex-officio member of the Public Services Commission and will approach the challenges that lie ahead with a competitive, market-based approach to utility regulation that is deeply embedded with the public's best interest.
Earlier this month Sen. Buckley received word from Senate President Shawn Michael Malone that the coveted appointed position was vacant, and he was in need of a legislative representative to take up the work of the people for the district of St. Croix.
"I was honored by the Senate President's request and after a brief conversation with him on matters regarding the commission, I quickly learned that although we may sit on opposite sides of the aisle politically, we are in many ways aligned when it comes to ensuring that our territory's ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and reasonably priced services, while at the same time encouraging maximum efficiency in our local utilities' operation and management,"
The Virgin Islands Public Services Commission regulates services such as electricity, water, telecommunications, inter-island ferry transportation, waste management and cable television. The PSC Board, by law, is composed of nine members. Seven are appointed by the Governor with legislative consent while two non-voting Senators representing both the St. Thomas/St. John District and the St. Croix District are appointed by the Senate President.
According to Senator Buckley, the new position is not one to be taken lightly, given the recent headlines in the local press detailing the latest feud between the Virgin Island Water and Power Authority and the PSC.
"It is my understanding that the Authority has several concerns with the Commission's request that says from now on WAPA will have to meet certain minimum filing requirements before asking for any further LEAC increases. They have also taken umbrage with a report issued by the PSC's consultants, Georgetown Consultant Group, that blames poor plant efficiencies rather than the rising price of oil on the global market as a major factor in the high LEAC being charged to local ratepayers,"
The Senator added, "I'm hoping to get down to the bottom of what is behind the skyrocketing rates that businesses and individuals are paying in the territory. At the current LEAC cost of 41 cents per kilowatt hour, there is no hope of getting our economy on the right track if a solution to our energy crisis cannot be reached in the immediate future." The Senator also recognizes, however, that WAPA must have a fair rate of return, so she is looking forward to searching for an equitable solution to this situation.
Also appointed to the PSC is newly-elected Senator Clarence Payne. Senator Buckley extends a heartfelt congratulations to her fellow freshman colleague out of the St. Thomas/St. John district and said she looks forward to working with him, as they confront the pressing issues that face the Commission.