- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Doug Nazarian, an attorney for the Maryland Public Service Commission, will take over as agency chairman in August as the successor to Steven Larsen, who announced plans Tuesday to return to the private sector with the Amerigroup Corporation.

Mr. Larsen, who was brought in as chairman last year by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said the agency has much more to do to ensure consumers are treated fairly by utilities in the face of rate increases. However, Mr. Larsen said he thinks he helped turn around what had been “a dysfunctional agency.”

“The challenges that the state faces are significant and ongoing, but I think that we’re working to meet them,” he said.

Mr. Larsen served as Maryland’s insurance commissioner previously before moving into the private sector. He said family concerns are now prompting his return to the lucrative private sector as Amerigroup’s senior vice president for government affairs.

Mr. Larsen assumed the chairman’s job after its salary was increased from $118,000 to $188,700. Mr. O’Malley said it’s a challenge to keep highly qualified people in state government because of higher salaries in the private sector.

The governor cited a settlement with Constellation Energy Group, which was approved in the 2008 General Assembly session, as one of Mr. Larsen’s leading achievements.

The deal, approved by lawmakers in April, provides $187 million in one-time “rate rebates” for Constellation subsidiary Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers and forgives $1.5 billion in customer liability for nuclear decommissioning costs.

Mr. Larsen also has spearheaded complaints with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The complaints resulted in the commission concluding that “unreasonable” market rules have cost Maryland consumers an additional $87.5 million in 2006. The ruling caused the discontinuation of a pricing structure that is estimated to save about $85 million a year.

Mr. Nazarian, who came to the agency as general counsel a year ago, said he will draw upon 15 years of legal experience to continue pressing for better consumer rates.

Before coming to the agency, Mr. Nazarian worked for the legal firm Hogan & Hartson in a practice that included business litigation and government investigations.

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