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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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The PSC Needs You

The Public Services Commission has been short-handed for the past two years and the situation is getting critical, according to Keithley Joseph, the PSC’s executive director.

By statute, the commission has seven voting members but two of those seats are not filled and one serving member recently has had some health problems.

“It becomes extremely difficult to form a quorum,” Joseph said. At least four members are necessary to take action at a meeting.

All three seats assigned to St. Croix are filled as is the one for St. John. The vacant positions must be filled by St. Thomas residents.

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The commission also has two ex-officio members, but they do not vote and are not counted for purposes of making a quorum.

The PSC is charged with regulating utilities and some communications. Its mandate covers telephones, electricity, cable television, ferry service and waste management; it sets rates and it handles complaints, attempting to keep a balance between the consumer’s needs and the companies’ abilities to deliver services and make a reasonable profit.

A relatively small staff – 15 individuals are listed on the PSC website – perform the day-to-day work, but the all-volunteer commission sets policy and makes decisions on petitions that come before the PSC, such as requests for rate increases.

The commission’s latest mandate involves reviewing proposals from companies that want to offer alternate energy sources in the Virgin Islands. These include solar, wind generation and geothermal projects, Joseph said. The PSC is supposed to determine whether they will be compatible with the Water and Power Authority, which holds the franchise for electricity.

Currently the PSC is assessing four proposals. Nine others already have been approved.

Unfortunately, according to Joseph, two of those nine were approved by default rather than by the due diligence the commission wants to give. That’s because the law states that if the PSC fails to act on an application within 90 days of its receipt, it is automatically approved. He blamed the difficulty in getting a quorum for the failure to act on the two applications.

“We’re asking anyone who’s interested in serving the territory” to submit their name for consideration for appointment to the PSC, Joseph said.

“We can use experts,” he said, but a high degree of technical expertise is not required. “We need people who can learn …We can send you for training.” The PSC also has a “standby” consultant who can advise members on particular cases.

Currently serving are chairman M. Thomas Jackson, vice chair Elsie Trotman, Joseph San Martin, Sirri Hamad and Verne David. The two ex-officio members are Sens. Judi Buckley and Clarence Payne.

The governor makes appointments, subject to legislative approval. Potential volunteers can submit their names to Government House or to Joseph. For more information, call him at 776-1291.

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The Public Services Commission has been short-handed for the past two years and the situation is getting critical, according to Keithley Joseph, the PSC’s executive director.

By statute, the commission has seven voting members but two of those seats are not filled and one serving member recently has had some health problems.

“It becomes extremely difficult to form a quorum,” Joseph said. At least four members are necessary to take action at a meeting.

All three seats assigned to St. Croix are filled as is the one for St. John. The vacant positions must be filled by St. Thomas residents.

The commission also has two ex-officio members, but they do not vote and are not counted for purposes of making a quorum.

The PSC is charged with regulating utilities and some communications. Its mandate covers telephones, electricity, cable television, ferry service and waste management; it sets rates and it handles complaints, attempting to keep a balance between the consumer’s needs and the companies’ abilities to deliver services and make a reasonable profit.

A relatively small staff – 15 individuals are listed on the PSC website – perform the day-to-day work, but the all-volunteer commission sets policy and makes decisions on petitions that come before the PSC, such as requests for rate increases.

The commission’s latest mandate involves reviewing proposals from companies that want to offer alternate energy sources in the Virgin Islands. These include solar, wind generation and geothermal projects, Joseph said. The PSC is supposed to determine whether they will be compatible with the Water and Power Authority, which holds the franchise for electricity.

Currently the PSC is assessing four proposals. Nine others already have been approved.

Unfortunately, according to Joseph, two of those nine were approved by default rather than by the due diligence the commission wants to give. That’s because the law states that if the PSC fails to act on an application within 90 days of its receipt, it is automatically approved. He blamed the difficulty in getting a quorum for the failure to act on the two applications.

“We’re asking anyone who’s interested in serving the territory” to submit their name for consideration for appointment to the PSC, Joseph said.

“We can use experts,” he said, but a high degree of technical expertise is not required. “We need people who can learn …We can send you for training.” The PSC also has a “standby” consultant who can advise members on particular cases.

Currently serving are chairman M. Thomas Jackson, vice chair Elsie Trotman, Joseph San Martin, Sirri Hamad and Verne David. The two ex-officio members are Sens. Judi Buckley and Clarence Payne.

The governor makes appointments, subject to legislative approval. Potential volunteers can submit their names to Government House or to Joseph. For more information, call him at 776-1291.