February 18, 2007 by Kevin Dayhoff
Last Friday, February 16th, 2007, it was announced that “Gov. Martin O’Malley has chosen former Maryland insurance commissioner Steven B. Larsen as his nominee to head the embattled Public Service Commission,” according to an article by Douglas Tallman and Alan Brody in the Gazette.
Messrs. Tallman and Brody added that Mr. Larsen served as “Glendening’s insurance chief from June 1997 until May 2003.”
Read the rest of their article here.
On January 29th, 2007, the former chair of the Maryland Public Service Commission, Ken Schisler resigned with a mere 51-word statement.
This - in contrast with the thousands of words raged in epic operatic proportions over the last year in response to a market spike in the cost of electricity just after the rate cap inconveniently came off in an election year.
Before the dawn of 2006 most Marylanders had never heard of the Public Service Commission or the 1999 electric deregulation legislation. For most of the public, the Public Service Commission’s role in electric rates was esoteric if not outright enigmatic.
The Maryland Democratic Party’s campaign for governor made the manufactured concept of some shadowy cabal of regulators exacting feudal tribute out of the working class in return for the ability to turn on the lights – a cornerstone of the election campaign.
It was classic class warfare.
Instead of accepting responsibility for well-intentioned legislation that went horribly wrong, Maryland’s Democratic leadership quickly settled upon Public Service Commission Chair Ken Schisler to personify last year’s market-driven 72 percent increase in the cost of electricity:
Many understood the malevolent campaign against Chairman Schisler as payback for his firing of five high-ranking Public Service Commission employees on April 15, 2004. A firestorm had ensued.
Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda immediately claimed that the Chairman violated state law. It was a position which Senator Frosh and Maryland Democratic leaders never changed.
In published remarks, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach compared Chairman Schisler to “a dictator” lording over “Russian surfs.”
In another phase of the Chairman Schisler witchcraft trial, last May 2006, he was aggressively questioned before the Special Committee on State Employee Rights and Protections for his 2004 personnel decisions.
Last year’s Democratic response to the unpredicted escalation in the cost of electricity had nothing to do with what was in the best interests of the citizens of Maryland and everything to do with electing a Democrat governor in the state of Maryland.
In the process, Maryland’s Democratic leadership re-enacted the proceedings of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials and crushed a dedicated public servant, Ken Schisler, under heavy stones for refusing to submit...
To put a cap on this fabricated witch-hunt opera, Governor Martin O’Malley’s spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese, greeted Mr. Schisler’s resignation with great anticipation. “There is no time to waste getting professional regulators back on the job — to protect consumers and restore stability for businesses.”
On other words, with Ken Schisler gone, everything is now right with the world.
Well hardly. Many of us who understand the 1999 electric deregulation legislation, economics and market forces are dumbstruck. There is very little either the governor or the Public Service Commission can do. And that goes for any chair, no matter whether they are a “professional regulator” or rabidly pro-business or anti-business.
The Public Service Commission cannot constitutionally require an electric utility to sell electricity at a rate lower than its cost. Electricity will not be cheaper than the 1993 rates in the foreseeable future.
The responsibility rests solely with the Maryland General Assembly. And what will the Maryland General Assembly do next? Regulate the cost of oil in Saudi Arabia?
With yet another Glendening re-tread in place - - Stay tuned. We can hardly wait for the next act of this opera.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.
E-mail him at: kdayhoff(at)carr.org
 STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE MARYLAND PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
January 29th, 2007
Baltimore, MD—Today, Kenneth Schisler, Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission (“Commission”), issued the following statement:
Today, I have submitted my resignation to the Governor, effective Friday, February 2, 2007. During my tenure at the Commission I have endeavored to implement the policies enacted by the General Assembly in a fair, impartial and effective manner. My resignation will facilitate the ability of the Public Service Commission to move forward in the important work it must accomplish. I wish my successors well.