Baker taps 3 for energy posts

Backgrounds suggest pro-business views

THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION on Monday filled three key energy and regulatory posts with officials whose backgrounds suggest they are likely to take pro-business positions on most issues.

Matthew Beaton, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, appointed Angela O’Connor as chair of the Department of Public Utilities and selected Robert Hayden as a DPU commissioner. The three-member DPU regulates utilities and helps set energy policy through its decisions. During the Patrick administration, the agency made a number of rulings to promote renewable energy, including the approval of lucrative power supply contracts between Cape Wind and the state’s two largest utilities. The utilities recently terminated those contracts, citing the failure of Cape Wind to meet construction and financing deadlines.

O’Connor spent the last three years working at TechNet, a policy advocacy organization for the tech industry. Previously, she headed a trade association representing electric power generators in New England and was the vice president of energy policy at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a business lobbying group. She is replacing Ann Berwick, the wife of former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick.

Hayden has worked at the DPU since 2001 in several capacities. The Hanover resident ran for Congress as a Republican in 2010 and described himself in a newspaper interview as “a conservative first and a Republican second.” He also said “the government has to get out of our way and not interfere.”

The third member of the DPU is Jolette Westbrook, who was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2009.

Beaton on Monday appointed Ron Gerwatowski as assistant secretary of energy. Gerwatwoski  is widely considered an expert on energy policy and markets, but many environmentalists view him skeptically because he spent most of his career at National Grid, the state’s largest utility. Gerwatowski retired from National Grid as a senior vice president of US regulation and pricing in July after 28 years of service.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said most of Baker’s appointments to state positions have been good. “But in this area of energy policy, it’s been disappointing,” he said. “We hope for the best, but we’re a little concerned the fox is guarding the chicken coop here. I don’t see the balance.”

In a press statement, Beaton said O’Connor and Hayden “will call upon their previous experiences and vast industry knowledge to ensure that utility consumers in the Commonwealth are provided with the most reliable and dependable service at the lowest possible cost.”