Once again, Rep. Jim Gowans, DTooele, is throwing his support behind a controversial issue that is opposed by most people.
Gowans is sponsoring HB320, which proposes the elimination of the current Committee of Consumer Services and the Division of Public Utilities. Gowans would replace the state’s utility watchdog group with a “utility czar.” This governor-appointed overseer would then name “class advocates” which would represent commercial, industrial, and residential utility customers.
This disproportionate representation would certainly be advantageous to large industrial and commercial energy users, whose interests may vary greatly from those of residential consumers. Gary Dodge, an attorney representing large industries, helped draft HB320. Dodge claims large industrial and commercial users have no representation at the Public Service Commission, whereas residential users have a publicly funded ratepayer advocate. Dodge does have a point, but how many residential utility users have attorneys writing legislation on their behalf or lobbying representatives to sponsor their interests? Gary Dodge is a prime example of why we need our watchdog groups.
In 2000, Rep. Ure (R-Kamas) sponsored a bill to abolish the Committee of Consumer Services and make it easier for public utility providers to raise their rates. That bill, also named HB320, was repealed due to a backlash of criticism from voters.
As for Rep. Gowans, this seems to be yet another example of how out of touch he is with his constituency. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I doubt Gowans would find any more support for HB320 now than Ure did five years ago, should he bother to listen to the voices of his electorate.