TRA at Standstill; No Leaders Named to Overhauled Panel

Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly reorganized Tennessee Regulatory Authority is off but not running since the governor and legislative leaders failed to appoint an executive and a quorum of directors by July 1, reports Andy Sher
Meanwhile, a six-month clock is already ticking on Tennessee American Water’s June 1 request to hike Chattanooga’s water rates by nearly 25 percent.
The TRA must decide on the request no later than November or the $10.5 million increase automatically will take effect.
Gas utilities Atmos Energy Corp. and Navitas, which operate in other parts of the state, filed rate-increase requests with the TRA on June 22 and July 2, respectively.
But the TRA last had a quorum of directors June 8. At their final meeting, Chairman Kenneth Hill and directors Sara Kyle and Mary Freeman named Hill as hearing officer in the Tennessee American case to keep proceedings moving.
“The clock started when they filed, and that’s why I put myself in the position to try to expedite” matters, Hill said.
But the Atmos and Navitas filings came after Freeman quit to take a job in Memphis. The result? Without a quorum, the board can’t even name a hearing officer right now.
Hill said Tuesday that getting a timely decision in the Tennessee American “depends on how much data comes in and how fast and how soon we can get hearings and reconcile testimony and come up with a decision.”
“We’re confident, at least at this point, because we were able to get ahead of the curve and get started on these procedurals,” Hill said.
But, he added, the Atmos and Navitas rate requests “are another question because we’re behind on those two.”
Hill and Kyle stayed on as part-time directors under the reorganization. Director Eddie Roberson, a Democrat, and Freeman left their positions. That means there are three unfilled board seats plus the executive director position.
Haslam spokesman David Smith downplayed the situation, Tuesday, saying, “We continue to move through the process and are committed to finding the best fits for the positions.”
Asked when the governor anticipates filling the posts, Smith said, “It’s as soon as we find the best fits for the positions.”
The appointment will be made jointly by Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, all Republicans. Neither Ramsey nor Harwell responded to requests for comment.

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