Saturday, August 1, 2015

Commissioner "603"

I spent an hour and a half listening to the July 2nd Executive Council confirmation hearing of Kate Bailey as the newest New Hampshire Public Utilities  Commissioner yesterday.  You can hear it here:  I suggest opening the link in Internet Explorer.  I couldn't get the player to launch in other browsers.
Here is my favorite story from the hearing.  It was told in response to a question for Ms. Bailey about her proudest accomplishment while working for the PUC.
Some years ago, the PUC was asked to come up with a plan for adding at least one more area code for New Hampshire.  Everyone was very concerned because it meant businesses would all have to get new letterhead and most people would not be happy dialing a 10 digit number to call in state.
Kate Bailey looked at the issue differently.  She's an engineer, after all.  Engineers are trained to ask questions.  Kate Bailey wondered why on earth we needed additional area codes.  A 10 digit number should allow for 10 billion phone numbers!  New Hampshire has about 1.3 million people. 
She found out that when a new company set up an account in New Hampshire, the phone companies were reserving blocks of 10,000 numbers at a time!  Kate called the agency that was in charge of number assignments and asked if those reservations couldn't be cut back to 1000 at a time.  After much arguing back and forth, they finally agreed. 
So, today, when you see "The 603" on a t-shirt or hear it in the lyrics of a song (Super Secret Project), you can thank Ms. Bailey for using logic to help prevent the loss of a New Hampshire icon.
Of course, as someone very concerned about pipeline projects that are set to double the amount of natural gas flowing into New England to address a problem that occurs for a few days during the winter, I listened to the hearing with great interest.
Overall, I really liked what I heard.  She is articulate, prepared, and intelligent. 
There was really only one area of concern.  One of the people testifying in support of her appointment was Attorney Susan Geiger, who is currently representing Kinder Morgan through the law firm, Orr & Reno.  
Given that the Governor nominated Ms. Bailey and the lead attorney for Kinder Morgan endorsed her, it would be naive not to feel concern. 
Will Ms. Bailey lives up to her "proudest moment" in her new position?  Let's hope that she can see that doubling the amount of natural gas into New England is like adding area codes to our little state; it's illogical, will lead to stranded costs for ratepayers, and likely to wreck the identity of the entire southern tier of New Hampshire.