DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recent appointment to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has some Republicans frustrated and concerned that many Coloradans will not have a voice in future Governor Jared Polis’s renewable energy plan.
On Monday, Hickenlooper appointed John Charles Gavan, a registered Unaffiliated from Paonia, to replace Wendy Moser, a Republican whose term expires in January.
Two other members of the commission, Jeffrey Ackermann (term expires 2021) and Frances Koncilja (term expires 2020) are both Democrats.
The appointment still must be confirmed by the Colorado State Senate, which is expected to happen easily with Democrats now holding the majority.
Gavan’s appointment raised questions among Republicans about whether Hickenlooper violated the spirit of a state statute, CRS 40-2-101 (2), that says no more than two members of the three-member commission can be from the same political party.
Polly Page, who served on the PUC from 2000-2008, said the law is designed to make sure there is dialogue and debate.
“It was written so a Democrat governor doesn’t have all Democrats on the commission or a Republican Governor doesn’t have all Republicans on the commission,” Page said. “You at least have one voice on the board that is from the other side.”
According to the Delta County election office, Gavan has been registered unaffiliated since 2013. However, in that same time, TRACER reports (the state’s election database) show Gavan and his wife have donated exclusively to liberal causes and candidates, including mill levy increases, Delta County State Rep. Millie Hamner and Delta County Sen. Kerry Donovan, both Democrats.
Additionally, Gavan served on the board of Solar Energy International, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.
In an opinion piece to the Denver Post in May of 2016, Gavan said the declining coal industry in Delta County was not the end of the world. Instead, he argued it would only push Delta County toward a newer, better economy.
“One thing is certain, Delta County will change as it transitions economically with the shutdown of the coal mines,” he wrote in the opinion piece. “However, I am very confident that the correct underpinnings are being put in place to make ‘Delta County 3.0’ the shining star of the Western Slope.”
Given his history and ideology, Gavan’s nomination puts in place a unanimous board that is expected to move Polis’s plan for 100 percent renewable energy without debate, Page said.
“There won’t be a conversation,” she said. “It’s just a straight slam dunk.”
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, agreed, calling the appointment “downright disgusting and unacceptable.”
“Now the center and center right have no voice at the PUC,” Cooke said. “It looks totally like political pay back. It’s part of an underhanded radical agenda for this and the next Governor. The PUC will again be the lap dogs of a political party.”
Hickenlooper’s press secretary, Jacque Montgomery, said the Governor was thankful for Moser’s time on the commission.
“We appreciate Wendy’s service to the PUC,” Montgomery said. “Mr. Gavan was a consensus choice of both the Governor and Governor-elect Polis. He is an engineer and brings experience in energy and telecommunications. We believe Mr. Gavan will be an excellent addition to the PUC. ”
Page said it’s irrelevant if it’s technically OK, Hickenlooper should protect the voice of all Coloradans, she said.
“Absolutely unconscionable,” she said. “We need to hear voices, differing voices. I know the Democrats are going to control everything, but hey, let’s abide by the intent of the statute, which is to have one opposing view.”
Polis initially declined to comment on the appointment; however, Complete Colorado contacted him again after learning he played a role in the selection. Complete Colorado will update the story should Polis make a statement.
Cooke said he believes it’s a part of bigger plan.
“It fits right into what he wants,” Cooke said about Polis. “He wants no in-depth discussion. They all have the same political agenda. There will be no dialogue, and the consumer is going to pay for it. Rate payers will get tagged with the bill. He wants to ramrod 100 percent renewables down the throats of Colorado rate payers. He wants to say: ‘It’s not just me that thinks this is a good idea; the PUC does too.’ But the PUC was created to protect the consumer from the monopoly. Now the PUC will protect the monopoly from the consumer.”