Committee approves new Board of Public Utilities chairman

TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two appointees to the Board of Public Utilities, including Gov. Chris Christie’s selection as the new chairman of the board.

Robert Hanna, currently an assistant Attorney General, replaces Lee Solomon on the board and was tabbed by Christie as the new chairman. Hanna served for 16 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was a director in the Newark-based law firm of Gibbons P.C.

“New Jersey’s energy future is central to the state’s economic health,” Hanna told the panel. “(It) plays a central role in making sure the lights stay on…that clean water flows, all at reasonable prices.”

Chairman Nicholas Scutari, (D-22), of Linden, praised Hanna’s legal background, but asked if he had any particular experience in public utilities.

Hanna said he served as counsel for numerous state entities that appeared as litigants in energy disputes with the BPU. “I work with people throughout state government whose roles have some relation to BPU,” he said.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, (R-40), of Cedar Grove, called Hanna an “extraordinary” lawyer. “It’s an extraordinary loss for the Attorney General’s Office,” he said. “Much in the mold of Lee Solomon, you’re a wonderful public servant and we’re lucky to have someone of your caliber.”

The board also approved the renomination of Joseph Fiordaliso, former mayor of Livingston.

Pulling an outside political tangent into the proceeding, Scutari asked Fiordaliso what county he hails from, to which the man replied Essex County.

Referring to Christie’s comments last week about holding up all Essex County appointments until his education commissioner is appointed, Scutari said, “It was my understanding that nobody was coming out of Essex County until everybody came out of Essex County.”

Scutari half-jokingly said to Fiordaliso, “Congratulations for being able to navigate that maze.”

Committee approves new Board of Public Utilities chairman