Joint House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce Committees Remarks

Joint House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce Committees

Remarks by Lisa Ventriss

April 10, 2012

Good morning. For the record, my name is Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable. The Roundtable is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 118 CEOs of Vermont’s top private and nonprofit employers, representing geographic diversity and all major sectors of the Vermont economy, with an aggregate global economic impact of $292 billion, over $1.8 billion in corporate philanthropy, and employing more than 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

On behalf of our membership, I speak in support of the process underway by the Public Service Board to solely deliberate, on behalf of all Vermont citizens, on the proposed merger between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service.

In the interest of full disclosure, both Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power are members of the Roundtable. Mary Powell, CEO, of GMP is Vice-chair of the Roundtable.  Having said that, as a 501(c)(4) civic welfare organization, the Roundtable is obligated and committed to sustaining a sound economy and preserving Vermont’s unique quality of life by studying and making recommendations on long-range, statewide public policy issues that benefit all Vermonters, not merely the business members of the Roundtable or the broader Vermont community.

The Roundtable’s chief concerns center around the process used to evaluate the merits of the proposed merger between CVPS and GMP, in particular, the involvement by the Legislature in a domain that has been the express jurisdiction of the Public Service Board; an entity that was created by the Legislature to deal with regulatory issues affecting the public good.

  • The Public Service Board is well-regarded by numerous stakeholders around the state.  It has earned a reputation for being a credible quasi-judicial forum for the thoughtful and rigorous deliberation of complex regulatory matters, and whose non-partisan, non-political members use fact-based evidence to reach their decisions. The PSB should be allowed to complete its current work on the proposed merger, and any and all future work on regulatory matters on behalf of the public good, without the interference by the Legislative branch of state government.
  • If the Legislature were allowed to intervene, on a case by case basis,  in such a regulatory process as the one currently under discernment by the Public Service Board, it would represent not only bad public policy, but set a dangerous precedent for future regulatory matters. Such action by the Legislature would create an undisciplined regulatory environment of uncertainty and unpredictability, which in turn would make future plans for business growth either unfeasible, undesirable, or unwise.

The Roundtable endorses the “long view” investment and multi-generational benefits that could accrue to all classes of ratepayers with the successful merger of GMP and CVPS, in terms of lower energy bills; job creation; savings through efficiency and weatherization measures; administrative streamlining; and cost savings.

  • Practically speaking, ratepayers would receive value well beyond the amount they will pay in rates for the company’s investment in efficiency.  According to GMP and CVPS, that investment will result in gross savings to ratepayers of $45 million and thus a net savings to ratepayers of $24 million.

As has been noted by others, the economic viability of the GMP-CVPS merger is dependent on a number of factors, not just how the “windfall” issue is resolved.  It is vitally important that the Legislature acknowledge the delicate balance that has been achieved thus far by the merger parties, and that interference by the Legislature to achieve “short-term” gain ($75 per ratepayer), rather than allowing the Public Service Board to act in the long-term interest of the entire state (including their constituent ratepayers), places all of Vermont in jeopardy.