Governor Bill Ritter's just-announced choice of Ron Binz for chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities ought to generate considerable buzz in the blessedly smoke-free back rooms of power this morning. It's a modest move in a fresh direction--sort of like naming Ralph Nader to head General Motors, or putting Baron Munchausen in charge of the asylum.
For most of the 1980s and half the 1990s, Binz headed the state's Office of Consumer Counsel, which frequently battled the PUC over how telecom and energy rates were sticking it to the consumer. He's since moved on as a consultant on regulatory policy, with expertise in renewable energy and the tangle of FCC regs, without losing his passion for consumer advocacy. A complete bio can be found here. He's no flaming radical, but he's bound to shake things up at the PUC -- which, under the Owens regime, generally let industry have its way with the rate-paying wenches.
It'll be interesting to see how Xcel reacts to Binz's nomination. As I noted in this piece on Xcel's push for a new coal plant in Pueblo, the energy giant had no problem steamrolling the plant through the approval process in 2005, despite a host of concerns about the economics of the project and its globe-warming emissions. Once highly skeptical of wind power and other alternative sources, Xcel now declares it wants to be greener than the Incredible Hulk. And Binz might be just the guy to make that happen. --Alan Prendergast
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