Staff for Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn are leading an effort to support the Republican in his upcoming election battle.
Three candidates have already announced they are running against Dunn, who has become a lightning rod for criticism after asking for formal rate hearings for Alabama Power Co. for the first time in decades.
Dunn, a Republican who defeated Democratic Commissioner Susan Parker for the Place 2 seat in 2010, is running again in 2014. The Republican primary is June 3.
His chief of staff, David Rountree, is serving as the volunteer chairman of the Alabamians for Fair Utility Rates Political Action Committee.
“Powerful special interests are targeting Commissioner Dunn because he believes formal rate hearings are long overdue for the state’s largest utilities,” Rountree said in a release sent out about the effort. “He is an honest businessman, a conservative and committed to fairness. He’ll run on his record.”
During an Aug. 13 meeting, Dunn opposed changing how Alabama Power was regulated and argued rates were more likely to rise than fall under the new structure. The other two commissioners voted for the change. The other commissioners, President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden, previously voted against the formal rate hearings.
Cavanaugh argued that formal hearings would have required participants to hire legal counsel.
“Even the company acknowledged that its revenue could – not would – decline under certain conditions after last month’s decision,” Rountree said. He said, under the “best of circumstances,” the reduction would total only 0.77 percent of Alabama Power’s total revenue, most of which would be offset by a “rate rider the other commissioners tacked on in the August vote.”
Cavanaugh said in a release at the time of the vote that the less formal hearings allowed diverse groups to participate and testimony from dozens of consumers, and that the change allowed for the largest reduction in the rate of return for Alabama Power in almost 25 years. She said customers could expect a savings of between $30 and $110 on their power bills each year.
“While Alabama Power Company felt their current rate structure was justifiable, our job as commissioners is to do what’s fair for all, and our hearings showed that consumers deserve some relief in the bills they pay,” Cavanaugh said.
The web site for the PAC, www.fairutilityrates.org, contends “The monopoly utilities and the special interest groups on their payroll are pumping tremendous financial resources into defeating Commissioner Dunn – the only member of the PSC who is standing up for customers.
“Why do they want to send Terry Dunn back home? Because Dunn insisted the only way to make sure customers are paying fair rates is to hold formal hearings, with company executives required to testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination.
“While Commissioner Dunn fought to protect the public interest, his fellow commissioners chose to look out for their own political interests. Perhaps they knew what was coming.”
Opponents have labeled Dunn and Rountree as allies of radical environmental groups targeting the state’s coal industry.
Rountree has said a man he caught “snooping” on his property identified himself as a private investigator. He said a private investigator has followed Dunn. They also believe those supporting the utility have “even staged a fake demonstration, with one ‘demonstrator’ holding a sign supporting Dunn by name.” Groups have also requested, and received, cell phone records for Dunn and Rountree.
Hope Curry, who serves as executive assistant to Dunn, is listed on state records as the treasurer for the political action committee. They established the committee earlier this year.
“The purpose of AFURPAC is to support candidates for the Alabama Public Service Commission who will ensure the rates charges by regulated utilities are fair and reasonable,” according to the Statement of Organization of Political Action Committee filed with the Alabama secretary of state’s office.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen