Chair­man Epel re­signs 2 years be­fore term ends

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS -

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.

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