Changing Leadership at Maryland’s Public Service Commission

At the end of his term, Chairman Kevin Hughes stepped down from his post, leaving a lasting, important legacy.
“I am proud of the many accomplishments the commission has achieved during this time, including improved reliability for electric customers, significant investments in aging gas pipeline infrastructure, and nation-leading clean energy programs..."
Credit: Former Chairman Hughes, Maryland Public Service Commission

By guest blogger Jeremy Langham, Energy Efficiency for All Summer Intern

Energy Efficient Maryland, a broad coalition of groups that support and promote energy efficiency policy and practices in the Old Line State, bids farewell to Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Kevin Hughes. At the end of his term, he stepped down from his post, leaving a lasting, important legacy.

First appointed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley after serving as deputy legislative officer, where his portfolio included energy policy, Hughes quickly made a name for himself on the commission. For example, in 2015 he supported Exelon’s acquisition of Pepco Holdings Inc. in a 3-to-2 vote. This deal ensured $43.2 million in energy efficient programs in certain MD counties.

As O’Malley himself declared, “He has demonstrated a commitment to protecting the interests of ratepayers while also balancing the needs of utilities and ensuring that Marylanders have access to clean, affordable energy.” In January 2013, Hughes was rewarded for his work by a promotion to Chairman by O’Malley.

While serving as Chairman, Hughes served in many other positions. He was on the board of directors for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the NARUC Committee on Electricity and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. His dedication to serving not just Marylanders but the nation is remarkable.

Marylander Deron Lovaas, co-director of Energy Efficiency for All, testified to the PSC while Hughes was chair and has observed him since he started with his project in 2013. He describes Hughes as patient, a good listener, and always civil.

That’s a recipe for successful regulation, as expert Scott Hempling noted in an essay last year:

Psychologists describe “mirroring” as when two people in conversation mirror each other's facial expressions and tone—frowns producing frowns, smiles begetting smiles. The same goes for regulation. Mutual respect will attract the best skills from the diverse participants and produce gains; mutual disrespect denies the value of others, pushing us back toward zero-salesmanship. The “respectful regulator” is the one who persuades parties that respect raises the gain for all.

Scott Hempling

Respectful describes Hughes’ working style perfectly, and explains how he was able to accomplish big things while on PSC. For example, in 2015 he led fellow Commissioners and staff as they developed and issued a historic order vaulting Maryland up in the rankings of state energy efficiency policy published annually by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Key components of this order were then enacted into law by the Maryland legislature and Governor Hogan in 2017, underscoring the importance of this achievement.

The PSC—an important-yet-little-known Maryland regulatory agency whose jurisdiction includes water and sewage, gas and electric, vehicles for hire, telephone companies, and more—now enters a new era. On June 21, Hogan announced the nomination of Jason Stanek, formerly on staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission where he served for more than a decade.

Confident that Stanek is prepared to take the helm at the PSC, Hogan states that he “is knowledgeable in nearly every aspect of the utility industry, and I have no doubt that he will serve Maryland well in this new role.”

We wish Chairman Hughes the best as he yields his perch to Mr. Stanek, and we look forward to working with the new Chairman to keep Maryland moving forward toward a brighter, cleaner energy future for all.

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