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FERAF targets exiting PSC chairman Gunn

As he was leaving office, Public Service Commission Chairman Kevin Gunn improperly lobbied lawmakers on behalf of Missouri’s regulated electric utilities, a consumers group charged last week.

But the PSC said Gunn’s letters to lawmakers were sent only as a response to lawmakers’ questions.

In a Tuesday evening news release, the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF) said: “Gunn, who is resigning from the commission later this week, continues to overstep his role in advocating for Missouri’s utility companies.”

Gunn left the PSC Friday.

The FERAF news release included a statement from former state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, now director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and a FERAF board member.

She noted the PSC for decades “has provided a fair and balanced ratemaking process” partly because of “commissioners (who) act with integrity and impartiality.”

But, she said: “Less than a week before he is set to resign, Commissioner Gunn has taken it upon himself to personally lobby for legislation that would break with the traditional ratemaking process, by allowing utilities to add a huge new surcharge on Missourians’ electric bill.

“The correspondence he has written is little more than a job application.”

The group did not respond to a News Tribune request to specify what correspondence from Gunn they were referring to.

Last week, Gunn signed a two-page letter that accompanied an 8-page report from the PSC staff on what might happen to utility rates over the short term and long term, if lawmakers approve the surcharge proposal that FERAF wants to block.

His letter said the report was the “Staff’s analysis of the likely annual rate impact” of one portion of a bill that would allow the surcharges, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

During a Feb. 5 committee hearing on the bill, Kehoe read portions of a different, three-page letter Gunn wrote after Kehoe asked him to attend the committee meeting.

But Gunn was in Washington, D.C., that day.

His letter noted: “I want to make it clear that I am testifying in my individual capacity. ... The PSC has taken no official position on this legislation.”

Gunn then told the Senate committee: “ISRS, if done right, could be an effective way to replace aging infrastructure that will, in the long run, create a more reliable system as well as saving money for the consumer.”

FERAF claims the proposed law will cost consumers more money.

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