Utilities chairman: BPU needs fewer commissioners, better-qualified personnel

TRENTON – The assemblyman who bashed the Board of Public Utilities earlier today as being unresponsive intensified his attack later in the day.

Upendra Chivukula, (D-17), Somerset, who as chair of the Utilities Committee has a front-row seat when BPU personnel decline invitations to testify, offered specific ways that he thinks the agency should be restructured.

He suggested reducing the number of BPU commissioners from five to three, which he said would reduce costs since commissioners earn $140,000 and have full-time staff.

In addition, Chivukula said changes are needed because the agency is supposed to provide independent oversight of regulated utilities but he argued that it actually functions as an arm of the administration.

He cited the offshore wind law as an example.

“The governor signed it into law and the BPU doesn’t act on it.  It doesn’t make any sense,’’ said Chivukula, who made it clear he does not think much of the qualifications of some of the people there.

“It’s a revolving door for political patronage,’’ Chivukula said.  “They can appoint anyone they want.’’

Chivukula, who has long been at odds with the administration’s energy policies, said his call for a restructuring was not spurred by any single incident but was rather an accumulation of years of what he saw as indifference at the agency.

A spokesman for BPU said late Wednesday afternoon the agency would have no comment.