Monday, April 30, 2007

SPINCYCLE: Power struggle on state energy panel


Unfortunately another Pataki Legacy for Spitzer to deal with....all those Pataki Hacks that still remain in state government....shielded by long term appointments....funny...I don't recall any Pataki Commissioners protesting the pilferage going on over the last 12 you??? andy

April 30, 2007A charge of undue coercion, leveled by a state utility board member against a high-ranking state aide, threatens to short-circuit Gov. Eliot Spitzer's energy policy goals for weeks or months to come, insiders say.State Public Service Commission member Cheryl Buley, a patronage appointee of former Gov. George Pataki, publicly accused Spitzer's top energy adviser of improperly trying to influence her actions on a commission case.For reasons still unclear, the adviser, Steve Mitnick, allegedly prodded her in repeated calls to stop agitating for what's known as a "prudence investigation," a formal probe, of last summer's Con Edison blackouts.Mitnick even warned that her refusal "could result in me being removed from my commissioner position," Buley charged at a PSC meeting April 18.Commissioners are paid $109,800 annually.Spitzer's office called it a misunderstanding. But the governor also asked his inspector general, Kristine Hamann, to investigate. Well-placed sources now believe Mitnick - experienced in the energy business but new to government - might in fact have acted too high-handedly with Buley and that his future in the job may be in doubt.One big Spitzer goal is to extract investment in renewable energy from the utilities. But trying to drive the PSC's agenda means a foray outside his own power grid. All four current members were tapped by predecessor Pataki - for terms lasting into the Spitzer years and possibly beyond:Buley, with solid GOP connections, serves until February 2012. She once worked for Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and headed the ad-hoc state Freedom Party - created to give Pataki an extra ballot line in 1994.Patricia Acampora of Mattituck, the current chairwoman, joined the panel after serving for 12 years as a Republican assemblywoman from Suffolk. She's appointed until 2009.Lawyer Maureen F. Harris, serving until 2012, is the sister of a longtime Pataki associate, appointee and friend, Michael Finnegan.Lawyer Robert E. Curry Jr., is a Democrat and corporate governance expert, serving until February 2012.Once the charges surfaced, Bruno's Senate majority put off confirming Spitzer's selection of a fifth PSC member who'd replace Acampora as chairwoman - Angela Sparks-Beddoe, vice president of a firm that owns upstate electric companies regulated by the PSC. The Senate plans its own hearings on Buley's charges, further delaying Spitzer's reach into PSC.

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