Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fixing the Sustainable Energy Utility

The Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) is a great idea with a terrible governance structure. As currently constituted, the SEU's Oversight Board is self-perpetuating with no accountability to any public body. Senate Bill 276 would go a long way to fixing that. It would establish an accountable board, which would include seven members appointed by the governor, one senator and one representative, the Public Advocate and the secretary of DNREC. SB 276 would also provide that the SEU Board be explicitly subject to Delaware's FOIA.
John Kowalko did well in offering amendments to SB 228 to fix the SEU on Tuesday. Even though he lost the vote on the floor, he did gain 15 votes through the force of his argument. Several of his colleagues were sympathetic to fixing the SEU, but had specific, technical reasons for not supporting his amendments. Kowalko had tried, without success, to sit down with Harris McDowell to discuss his amendments. But by doggedly pointing out the flaws in the SEU, he helped create an atmosphere for fixing them. Jason's blogging on McDowell's murky dealings at DelawareLiberal raised public awareness of the potential for the SEU to serve private interests instead of the public interest. I have no doubt that Jason got some people's attention
when he went on Al Mascitti's show last month to discuss McDowell's machinations.
SB 276 is sponsored by most of the current legislators involved in the SEU, including Harris McDowell. The bill cleared the Senate Energy & Transit Committee yesterday and is on the Senate agenda today. There are other problematic features about the current SEU structure, but establishing public accountability would make it easier to deal with any remaining issues.


Blogger a most peculiar nature said...

Tom, thank goodness you are here to explain all of this mumbo-jumbo to us. I was going through the amendments yesterday and couldn't make much sense of them. Thanks to Jason, too, for raising the issue.

7:52 AM, June 05, 2008  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

It hasn't been easy going. The SEU structure is not a model of clarity. It has taken a lot of hard work and head-scratching to make sense out of this and figure out how to clean it up.

1:16 PM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem with SB 276's directives for the new SEU Oversight Board is that part of its mandate is unconstitutional. SB SB 276 calls for two legislators to sit on the Oversight Board. However, our State Constitution forbids indvidual legislators from also concurently holding offices or positions on boards that are involved in executing already enacted laws. Such dual office by legislators is banned by the State Constitution's Incompatibility Provision (Art. II, sec. 14) and violates the overall fundamental State constitutional precept of separation of powers. The Delaware courts have historically said legislators cannot also hold offices that involve implementing or executing laws. The SEU Board proposed by SB 276 cannot be reconciled with the State Constitution.

3:42 PM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me state, for the record, that Patty Blevins was the one that finally said, "Look, is there any reason NOT to put FOIA in the bill?" You could audibly hear McDowell's back break.

10:08 PM, June 05, 2008  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Good reporting Geek. Thanks.

10:43 PM, June 05, 2008  

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