Nominee for utility regulator defeated
Opponents cite Noel’s temperament, recusal rate as panel nixes Gray’s pick
A sharply divided D.C. Council committee rejected Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s nominee to a three-member commission that oversees public utilities, citing her temperament and the need to recuse herself from more than half of the current caseload.
The 3-2 vote Thursday by the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs effectively kills the nomination of Elizabeth Noel to the D.C. Public Service Commission, despite vocal supporters who say she is the tenacious advocate the city needs to regulate the electric, natural gas and telephone companies that serve the District.
Committee Chairman Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, and other members were quick to praise Ms. Noel for her work as the People’s Counsel — an advocate for quality service from public utilities and their equitable treatment of consumers — from 1991 to 2010, but they could not overcome a special committee’s report from the D.C. attorney general that said Ms. Noel had to recuse herself from almost 60 percent of current cases because of her previous clashes with utility companies, specifically Pepco.
Pepco officials, including region President Thomas N. Graham, attended the markup to “monitor the process.”
“Let me be absolutely clear, that my hesitation to the confirmation of Ms. Noel is in no way influenced by any outside party,” Ms. Alexander said, noting publicly paid employees should be able to perform their duties “more than 40 percent of the time.”
Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said he holds Ms. Noel in high regard and has supported her in the past, so her nomination marked one of the “more uncomfortable issues I’ve had to vote on.”
Top: Jim Mcgrath, chairman of the Tenants Advocacy Coalition, expresses his support Thursday for the nomination of Betty Noel to the D.C. Public Service Commission, outside of the John A. Wilson Building. Above: Mr. Mcgrath’s pleas fell on deaf ears from D.C. Council members Yvette M. Alexander (center), of Ward 7, and Phil Mendelson (right), at large, both of whom voted against her.