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N.H’s Public Utilities Commissioner Dianne Martin resigns, and DOE's permanent commissioner is nominated

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Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Electric grid: Utility lines, towers

After two years as chair of the Public Utilities Commission, Dianne Martin resigned yesterday to lead the Administrative Office of the Courts, which provides operational support to the state’s court system.

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“This is probably the biggest one-day shakeup I have ever seen at the Public Utilities Commission,” said Don Kreis, the state’s consumer advocate.

The PUC is made up of three commissioners that oversee electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities, but it hasn’t been fully staffed for about a year.

Martin wasn’t the only person changing roles. After serving as the Department of Energy’s interim commissioner, Jared Chicoine was also nominated on Wednesday to be the permanent commissioner. The newly formed department is tasked with developing and leading the state’s energy policy.

Martin’s last day as chairwoman of the PUC will be November 12, according to her resignation letter. She was nominated to the commission in 2019 and had four years left in her term.

“I wasn’t planning on resigning,” Martin said in a phone call with NHPR. Martin said she wanted to “see to the end” the restructuring and transitions introduced by the creation of a new Department of Energy, which shares administrative staff with the PUC, but the work with the court system was a “perfect opportunity.”

To fill her position, Gov. Chris Sununu nominated recently-appointed commissioner Dan Goldner at Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting.

The governor also nominated Pradip Chattopadhyay, a staff member at the PUC who formerly worked in the office for the consumer advocate. Carleton Simpson, an attorney with the electric utility, Unitil, was nominated earlier in October.

The commission has been criticized in recent months for delayed decisions in several dockets, including the state’s stalled triennial energy efficiency plan. But Kreis says a fully-staffed PUC may get decisions out the door.

“Depending on what the PUC decides, we will move forward and react somehow,” he said.

Chicoine’s nomination also represented a change, in Kreis’ opinion.

“People have been frustrated with the way things have been going since the Department of Energy was created on July 1st,” Kreis said. “I think it's been frustrating just because it has taken until now to get the right people nominated to the right jobs, and this cast of characters will be effective.”