Chairwoman of Public Utilities Commission steps down; Chicoine nominated to lead Energy

By: - October 27, 2021 2:38 pm
New Hampshire state house

Two other nominations for the remaining seats on the Public Utilities Commission have been put before the Executive Council. (Getty Images)

After a two-year tenure as chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission, Dianne Martin is resigning from the top position, four years before her six-year term was set to end. 

The newest addition to the utilities commission, Dan Goldner, who started in May, was nominated to take over for Martin. Her last day as chairwoman will be Nov. 12, according to her Oct. 26 resignation letter submitted to the Executive Council. Goldner’s professional background prior to joining the commission is not in energy, and Democrats have criticized his comments on climate change, which he attributed to “the Earth’s natural cycle” rather than recognizing the scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change.

Martin’s resignation comes amid big staffing changes on the horizon for both the utilities commission and the Department of Energy following a significant government restructuring that created the new department. The utilities commission, which is independent, shares administrative staff with the department.

After serving as the Department of Energy’s interim commissioner, Jared Chicoine has been nominated to fill the position on a permanent basis.

“With a permanent commissioner in place, you, I think, can look to the DOE to become more forceful in pursuing the policy agenda of the Sununu administration in energy, and I think it will be interesting to see how that unfolds,” said Consumer Advocate Don Kreis.

“It shows the governor is persuasive because Jared originally said he didn’t want to stay on as commissioner,” Kreis said.

Two other nominations for the remaining commissioner seats have been put before the Executive Council. If they are approved, this would be the first time in about a year that the commission has been fully staffed.

On Wednesday, Pradip Chattopadhyay was nominated to fill one of those seats. Chattopadhyay has been working as a senior adviser for the Public Utilities Commission since August, and before that worked in the office for the consumer advocate. Earlier in October, Carleton Simpson – an energy lawyer for Unitil – was also nominated.  

Kreis said these changes bode well for the utilities commission, and he praised the inclusion of Chattopadhyay, whose background is in ratepayer advocacy.

“There is a disturbing backlog of commission decisions,” Kreis said. “I think this particular configuration is well poised to clear that backlog.”

The council approved Martin’s resignation without discussion on Wednesday. In her resignation letter, Martin said she called Gov. Chris Sununu in late September to announce her departure, although the letter doesn’t say why Martin decided to resign or what she will be doing next.

“On September 21, 2021, I called to inform you that I intended to resign as Chairwoman of the NH Public Utilities Commission. Since that time, I have been focusing on preparing for an orderly transition,” she wrote in the letter addressed to Sununu.

Neither Goldner nor Martin could be immediately reached for comment.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.