A legislative committee voted 8-3 Friday to recommend the appointment of attorney Patrick Scully to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Scully has decades of experience representing a range of industries – including paper mills, wind and solar energy companies, and water utilities – before the PUC on regulatory issues. Supporters viewed that diverse and extensive experience before the commission as particularly useful as Maine attempts to transition to a clean-energy economy.

“Given Mr. Scully’s extensive regulatory experience before the commission, in addition to his vast legal knowledge and his leadership skills, he is a remarkably strong candidate for commissioner and will work to advance the state’s goals while protecting the interests of Maine ratepayers,” Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, told members of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

However, Republican members of the panel voiced concerns about whether Scully’s experience creates a conflict of interest and bias on behalf of renewable energy.

Scully, who lives in Naples, said he believes that he is “uniquely qualified” to serve on the commission based on his understanding of the PUC’s complex processes and rules, the issues facing the commission and the role the commission serves in Maine and regionally.

“Over the coming years, Maine faces many important decisions as we strive to meet the state’s ambitious climate and clean energy targets, in which the PUC will play a vital role,” Scully said. “I would be proud to bring my experience in utility and energy law to the commission to help guide Maine to a better future.”

Gov. Janet Mills nominated Scully to fill the seat being vacated by Bruce Williamson on the three-member commission, which is responsible for regulating Maine’s electric, telecommunications, gas and water utilities. Scully’s nomination now goes to the Maine Senate for confirmation.

Scully retired as CEO of Bernstein Shur in 2019 after a more than 30-year career with the law firm, much of that working on energy and utility issues. Scully’s past clients include Sappi North America’s paper mill in Skowhegan, the Maine Renewable Energy Association, the wind power developer First Wind, hydropower plants, competitive energy providers and biomass facilities.

If confirmed, Scully would be joining the PUC at a busy and high-profile time beyond the routine rate-setting and regulatory responsibilities of the commission.

The Mills administration and the Legislature have set a goal of reducing Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and by at least 80 percent by 2050. To meet those ambitious goals, a “climate action plan” from the Maine Climate Council calls for more widespread conversion to electric vehicles and heat pumps along with continued development of grid-scale renewable energy, including large solar projects, offshore wind and energy storage technology.

But lawmakers also are considering a major bill that would force the state’s two largest electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, to sell their assets to a new consumer-owned utility. If the bill is approved by lawmakers and is not vetoed by Mills, the issue would go to voters this November for a statewide referendum.

Scully declined to wade into the intense debate or comment on gauging a utility’s “fitness” or an appropriate return on equity for an investor-owned utility, saying he didn’t want to prejudge issues that might come before the commission.

But in his testimony, Scully said he has handled “virtually every kind of proceeding involving Maine’s utilities, generators and suppliers.” While Scully said he never represented electric utilities, he was involved in the PUC rulemaking to implement the deregulation, or “restructuring,” of the electric industry at the turn of the century.

Richard Silkman, a Scarborough economist who specializes in utility regulation, said he often was on the other side of Scully on issues pending with the PUC over the course of more than 30 years.

“Despite being on opposite sides I have always found Pat to be of the highest integrity, to be true to his word, to be honest and forthright in his interactions with others, and to be very capable and most knowledgeable concerning the matters under discussion,” Silkman said. “Pat does his homework, and that’s very important.”

Scully also received support from a broad cross section of organizations, including the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, the Maine Renewable Energy Association, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Coalition for Community Solar Access and the Associated General Contractors of Maine.

“The regulatory decisions we make over the next five to 10 years are what will determine the trajectory of the next 25 and whether Maine accomplishes our energy and climate goals,” said Fortunat Mueller, co-founder of the solar installation company ReVision Energy. “Pat’s energy expertise and legal brilliance are second to none in the state and that by itself is surely a huge asset to the commission.”

Republicans on the committee who ultimately voted against Scully questioned the nominee on his ties to the renewable energy industry as well as his views of several issues, including nuclear energy and how to balance the state’s climate goals with the need to keep rates low.

Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said he was concerned that Scully might have “some sort of bias toward wind” because of his years representing wind energy developers before the PUC. Stewart raised the prospect of conflicts of interest and also pointed out that Scully ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature against a Republican candidate last year and received campaign donations from companies or law firms that will have business before the PUC.

“I had a job during my career as an attorney to represent a certain industry and I did that,” Scully responded. “If I were confirmed to the commission, my job is to represent Maine and Maine’s ratepayers and follow the law that you all established. And the interests of ratepayers have to come first. So while I believe that renewable power has an important part in our state’s future, I am certainly not going to advocate or support a more expensive energy source over a less expensive energy source.”

Stewart also accused Mills of tapping candidates who lost to Republicans and “finding other ways to put them in various roles that could be problematic down the road.” While Stewart said he does not believe that is the case with Scully, who ran as an independent, he said Republicans are “frustrated” with with what they see as a pattern from the governor.


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