The Bulletin Board

Consumer advocate asks for disqualification of commissioner in energy efficiency case

By: - December 17, 2021 12:48 pm
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Energy efficiency was “a constant and pervasive subject of discussion among everyone who works at the OCA,” according to Consumer Advocate Don Kreis. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The state’s consumer advocate, Don Kreis, asked for Commissioner Pradip Chattopadhyay’s disqualification from a contentious energy efficiency issue that is currently before the Public Utilities Commission.

Before Chattopadhyay’s recent appointment as a commissioner, he worked with Kreis as an administrator at the Office of the Consumer Advocate. Kreis and Chattopadhyay disagree over whether that work should disqualify him from working on energy efficiency in his new role. 

In a motion filed early on Friday, Kreis said Chattopadhyay should be disqualified because he could be reasonably seen as biased, and he has insider information about the OCA’s position and strategies when it comes to energy efficiency. According to Kreis, energy efficiency was “a constant and pervasive subject of discussion among everyone who works at the OCA.” The full text of his motion can be found below this story.

“If you are here inside my office and have been here inside my office with me since the day I took office, then you have heard me talking about energy efficiency endlessly. You know exactly what my willingness to compromise is, what my bottom line is about things, what I’m willing to bring to the state Supreme Court to fight over,” Kreis said.

Chattopadhyay has argued that he wasn’t involved in energy efficiency in a substantive way during his time at the OCA and that he should be allowed to work on the matter in his role as a commissioner, in a memorandum he circulated to stakeholders on Tuesday. That same day, he signed an order related to the energy efficiency docket. The order limited the materials that utilities were required to submit by a Dec. 15 filing deadline.

Whether Chattopadhyay participates in the docket could impact how quickly the commission can issue decisions on energy efficiency, since a quorum of two commissioners is required by New Hampshire law. The decision may also impact the public perception of whether the commission is acting fairly and ethically on a significant decision. 

While a third commissioner, Carleton Simpson, has been appointed, he is not expected to start the job until after the new year, and he is expected to recuse himself because of his prior work on the matter as a lawyer for Unitil.

Kreis expects Chattopadhyay to respond to his motion individually. 

OCA Motion for Disqualification of Commissioner Chattopadhyay 12-17-21

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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.