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Friday, May 27, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesRUTNIK SAYS V.I. EXPERTISE BEHIND WAPA PROPOSAL

RUTNIK SAYS V.I. EXPERTISE BEHIND WAPA PROPOSAL

Much has been written and spoken on the proposed partnership between Southern Energy and the V.I. government. Expressions have been varied and at times emotional. What impresses me most is the process more than the outcome.
From the time former Gov. Roy Schneider first indicated a willingness to rearrange the relationship of the Water and Power Authority and the government by bringing in a partner, residents have expressed their opinions both forcibly and quietly. When current Gov. Charles W. Turnbull assumed office, it wasn't long before the issue resurfaced and residents again were hearing various spins on what the particulars of the proposed deal might be and how it would affect their daily lives.
Well, now the facts are out. Through Senate meetings, public forums, radio and television talk shows, print media and street corner melee, everyone has had an opportunity to hear part, if not all, of the proposed deal. Critics of the proposal challenge many parts of the partnership, picking out whatever terms offend their position. Proponents of the arrangement welcome the new approach to our electric and water utility and are encouraged by the promise of better service, fixed rates and economic expansion.
My position as part of the negotiating team representing the government in the Southern Energy/government proposal is public knowledge. The team put together by the governor was well equipped: a lawyer (Dean Plaskett) well versed in environmental and permitting matters; a financial expert (Rudolph Krigger) knowledgeable in bonding, financial projections, accounting procedures, etc.; another lawyer and now Judge (Rhys Hodge) familiar with labor issues, V.I. law as it applies to legislative law; and myself, as a former Public Services Commission member of six years, possessing a thorough knowledge of the regulatory environment governing utilities.
Add to this one of the world's largest and most successful business consulting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and longtime V.I. legal counsel Winston & Strawn of Washington, D.C., and many others who contributed their expertise as needed. As a final check and balance, the governor required an independent third party consulting firm to give a fairness opinion in writing to assure him and all concerned that the negotiated proposal was, indeed, fair for the people of the Virgin Islands.
I will not get into the details of the proposed partnership, because I am sure our elected representatives to the Senate will publicly air every aspect of this important decision. But what I will say is that, contrary to the claims of some critics, this proposed partnership will be good for the employees (union and non-union), the ratepayers (residential and business), and the government. Are we giving something up to get something better? Yes, we are trading in an old model that has served us well but can no longer provide the reliability that we need to grow these islands economically. And yes, we will get something better, a new model that will reflect all the investment in technology and efficiency that can carry us through the new millennium.
Most important, throughout the decision-making process on this proposed partnership, everyone from the governor's team, Southern Energy and the Senate has exhibited the highest standards of integrity and respect. The openness of the negotiations and the decision, I hope, will set a precedent for all future endeavors by our elected leadership. Democracy is alive and well in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Andrew Rutnik is the commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.

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Much has been written and spoken on the proposed partnership between Southern Energy and the V.I. government. Expressions have been varied and at times emotional. What impresses me most is the process more than the outcome.
From the time former Gov. Roy Schneider first indicated a willingness to rearrange the relationship of the Water and Power Authority and the government by bringing in a partner, residents have expressed their opinions both forcibly and quietly. When current Gov. Charles W. Turnbull assumed office, it wasn't long before the issue resurfaced and residents again were hearing various spins on what the particulars of the proposed deal might be and how it would affect their daily lives.
Well, now the facts are out. Through Senate meetings, public forums, radio and television talk shows, print media and street corner melee, everyone has had an opportunity to hear part, if not all, of the proposed deal. Critics of the proposal challenge many parts of the partnership, picking out whatever terms offend their position. Proponents of the arrangement welcome the new approach to our electric and water utility and are encouraged by the promise of better service, fixed rates and economic expansion.
My position as part of the negotiating team representing the government in the Southern Energy/government proposal is public knowledge. The team put together by the governor was well equipped: a lawyer (Dean Plaskett) well versed in environmental and permitting matters; a financial expert (Rudolph Krigger) knowledgeable in bonding, financial projections, accounting procedures, etc.; another lawyer and now Judge (Rhys Hodge) familiar with labor issues, V.I. law as it applies to legislative law; and myself, as a former Public Services Commission member of six years, possessing a thorough knowledge of the regulatory environment governing utilities.
Add to this one of the world's largest and most successful business consulting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and longtime V.I. legal counsel Winston & Strawn of Washington, D.C., and many others who contributed their expertise as needed. As a final check and balance, the governor required an independent third party consulting firm to give a fairness opinion in writing to assure him and all concerned that the negotiated proposal was, indeed, fair for the people of the Virgin Islands.
I will not get into the details of the proposed partnership, because I am sure our elected representatives to the Senate will publicly air every aspect of this important decision. But what I will say is that, contrary to the claims of some critics, this proposed partnership will be good for the employees (union and non-union), the ratepayers (residential and business), and the government. Are we giving something up to get something better? Yes, we are trading in an old model that has served us well but can no longer provide the reliability that we need to grow these islands economically. And yes, we will get something better, a new model that will reflect all the investment in technology and efficiency that can carry us through the new millennium.
Most important, throughout the decision-making process on this proposed partnership, everyone from the governor's team, Southern Energy and the Senate has exhibited the highest standards of integrity and respect. The openness of the negotiations and the decision, I hope, will set a precedent for all future endeavors by our elected leadership. Democracy is alive and well in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Andrew Rutnik is the commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.