Chairman Epel resigns 2 years before term ends
Two years before his term ends as chairman of the state agency that regulates electricity rates, Joshua Epel said Tuesday he will resign from the Colorado’s Public Utility Commission board, effective Jan. 1.
Epel, a Democrat who is halfway into his second four-year term, said he just felt like it was time.
“I’ve been on the commission for six years and we have had a huge number of dockets,” said Epel, 63, adding that he has no idea what he’s going to do next. “At some point, you accomplish what you set out to accomplish. It’s time to try something different. Six years in the same job, it’s a little exhausting.”
Epel, named chair of the board in 2011, was charged with regulating Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy, Colorado’s two investor-owned utilities, as well as some elements of telecommunications and transportation, including taxi companies and ride-share networks Lyft and Uber. He was reappointed in 2014 to a term that was to expire Jan. 1, 2019.
He has led the three-member commission through a particularly heavy docket that included the regulation of Lyft and Uber and Boulder’s attempt to condemn elements of Xcel’s generation system to create a municipal utility.
While his resignation appears abrupt, Epel said he made the decision over the summer but told no one except his wife. He told Gov. John Hickenlooper “a few weeks ago, and he was surprised,” Epel said.
“What distinguishes this commission — and people say this all over the country — is people feel there is a sense of fairness,” Epel said. “The best ideas will surface. If we can maintain that culture of fairness and thoughtfulness, we will see a lot more companies move to Colorado because it is such a great place to do business.”
Members of the PUC are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate and no more than two
commissioners may be from the same political party.
Hickenlooper’s office said the hunt is on for a replacement for Epel, a Democrat. However, the calculus may be made more complicated because the term of Republican commissioner Glenn A. Vaad expires Jan. 1. The third member is Frances A. Koncilja, a Democrat, who was named to the panel in January.
PUC spokesman Terry Bote said no announcement has been made on whether Vaad will seek another term.
But the political posturing has already begun. Senate President-elect Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, issued a statement saying his GOP colleagues “will ensure that any new appointee to the Public Utili- ties Commission is firmly committed to making the well-being of Colorado rate-payers their top priority. Our most vulnerable citizens and small businesses rely on affordable energy. We also believe the Public Utilities Commission should be prepared to participate as a full partner in a broad regulatory reform agenda moving forward.”
The PUC chair and commission members are paid for full-time work. The current annual salaries are $133,488 for the chairman and $123,000 for the other two commissioners, Bote said.