Saturday, May 14, 2011

State hamstrings IURC in probe of utility tree trimming - Fort Wayne, IN

State hamstrings IURC in probe of tree trimming | The Journal Gazette | Fort Wayne, IN

Secrecy and the clout of the special interests outweigh the public good. For the third year, elected officials have blocked utility reform. And, the agency overseeing the utility tree-trimming investigation, the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission, has seen serious ethical lapses with former employees now under state and possibly federal investigation.

Lax oversight as reported in an April 16 Indianapolis Star editorial is not a problem exclusively with the IURC. The root lies with the legislature and the governor. They have effectively tied the hands of the IURC, denying them the ability to keep all utility customers fully informed and preventing the IURC from enforcing its own rules. Now under new leadership, will the IURC establish higher ethical standards and give the public equal consideration and rights versus the power of special interest groups?

The legislature and administration, which have been repeatedly warned of serious utility problems by the Indiana Tree Alliance, have chosen to remain silent, knowing the current tree-trimming investigation cannot fix many of the problems.

The legislature and governor, to date, have not given the IURC the authority it needs to ensure the public is well informed. Up to 4 million Hoosiers remain uninformed about a statewide tree-trimming investigation and the current rule-making by the IURC – which will define homeowners’ rights versus utilities’ rights to trim and remove trees on private property near overhead electrical lines.

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