Gov. Butch Otter has named former North Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, among the current and former legislators most versed on electric utility operations in Idaho, to fill the vacancy on the three-member Public Utilities Commission effective Dec. 28.
Anderson, a former five-term Republican House member from Priest River in the Idaho Panhandle, replaces veteran PUC member Marsha Smith, who retired earlier in 2015 but then was reappointed by Otter in July after the death of Commissioner Mack Redford. Anderson will serve the remainder of Redford’s term, which expires Jan. 9, 2019. Gubernatorial appointees to the PUC serve six-year terms and are subject to Senate confirmation. Other PUC members are President Paul Kjellander and Commissioner Kristine Raper.Anderson is a director and vice president of the Sandpoint-based Northern Lights electric cooperative and has served as a director of the Idaho Consumer Owned Utilities Association. Like the Northern Lights co-op, the utilities association members are either electric cooperatives or municipal utilities and are not subject to PUC regulation and oversight. Idaho’s three big regulated electric utilities (Idaho Power, Avista Utilities, and Rocky Mountain Power) own much of their own generation and transmission infrastructure, while Idaho’s non-regulated cooperatives buy most of their electricity from the Department of Energy’s Bonneville Power Administration.
Anderson chaired the House Ways and Means Committee in his last legislative term, which ran until 2014. He also served on the House Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee and participated in the development of the Idaho Energy Plan. He also served on the U.S.-Canada Pacific Northwest Economic Region.
Political junkies and Idaho Statehouse observers may recall that Anderson showed something of an independent streak as a lawmaker when, in 2010, he filed an ethics complaint against serial tax protestor and then-Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, charging Hart’s theft of timber from state school endowment lands and Hart’s repeated refusal to pay back state and federal taxes violated his legislative oath of office. Newly elected to his fourth term at the time, Anderson expressed frustration that House Republican leadership wasn’t taking action against Hart, who unsuccessfully fought the federal income tax as unconstitutional. According to the Spokesman-Review newspaper, Anderson said his charges against Hart led to Anderson being punished by House leadership in the form of losing the vice-chairmanship of the powerful House State Affairs Committee and being denied a third committee assignment to the House Judiciary panel.
“I am honored to be appointed and by the opportunity to again serve the people of Idaho in this new role,” Anderson said in a prepared statement announcing his PUC appointment. “There is significant change occurring in our energy future. I am excited by the chance to embrace this change and help craft solutions that will keep energy costs low for Idaho homes and businesses.”