- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley, who helped delay a 72 percent energy-rate increase last year, nominated two new utility regulators who will oversee a 69 percent increase in electricity rates this year.

One nominee has no direct experience in regulating utilities and the other helped craft the 1999 deregulation plan that indirectly led to Mr. O’Malley’s efforts to delay the rate increase.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, nominated former Maryland Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen to lead the utility-regulating Public Service Commission. Mr. Larsen, who has no experience in regulating utilities, ran the state insurance-regulating agency during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

Mr. Larsen, 47, will replace former commission Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler. Mr. Schisler resigned last month under pressure from Mr. O’Malley and other Democrats angry about the 72 percent electricity-rate increase the commission approved last year.

The governor also nominated former commission member Susanne Brogan to return to the five-member panel. During the Glendening administration, Mrs. Brogan helped create the 1999 plan that capped electricity rates at below-market levels for six years.

Mrs. Brogan, who served on the commission from 1992 to 2001, supported the plan and said commissioners did not expect Baltimore Gas and Electric rates to skyrocket.

She did not say whether she would extend the price cap lawmakers enacted to ease price increases.

“I’m disappointed, but I don’t know if going back to re-regulation is the answer,” Mrs. Brogan said.

Mr. O’Malley’s third choice was the reappointment of Harold Williams.

The nominees served under Mr. Glendening, who left a $1.8 billion deficit when his terms ended in 2003.

Mr. O’Malley said he wants to restore public confidence in state energy regulators.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve seen an erosion of that confidence,” he said.

Republican lawmakers are questioning whether the nominees are the best choices as the state tries to resolve a roughly $4 billion budget deficit.

“My concern is: The Glendening thinking got us stuck in a serious financial hole,” said Sen. Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, a Frederick Republican.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who in November lost his re-election bid to Mr. O’Malley, offered a plan to phase in the increase to market-based rates over 18 months, beginning with a 15 percent increase last July. However, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly crafted its own version during a special session. Mr. Ehrlich vetoed the Democratic proposal.

The nominees are among several former Glendening officials filling key roles in the O’Malley administration.

Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster and Transportation Secretary John Porcari served in the same roles under Mr. Glendening.

Mr. O’Malley also yesterday submitted names to lower-level appointments such as state boards. He recommended U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and former Congressman Kweisi Mfume, Maryland Democrats, serve on the Morgan State University Board of Regents.

The state Senate must confirm the nominations.



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