ML&P Commission chief resigns, cites concerns about utility sale
Judith Brady, longtime head of the city’s Municipal Light & Power Commission, has resigned, citing concerns about how officials are handling the run-up to the April election to decide whether Anchorage will negotiate a proposed $1 billion sale of the city’s electric utility to Chugach Electric.
In her Jan. 25 letter to Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Brady said she supports the decision to “review” the sale, but, “As you are also aware, I am also troubled by the process.
“Two nights ago the Anchorage Assembly voted to put the question on the April ballot. This vote includes a change to the Municipal Charter to lower the required public vote from 60 percent to 50 percent. This vote was taken after a series of executive sessions by the Assembly, in which the details of such a sale were discussed and decided. These discussions and information on which they were based remain confidential.
“This is the first time in a Alaska’s history a transaction of this size has been put on the ballot based on confidential information and after only one public hearing
“While the Assembly made it clear, if the public voted ‘yes’ to approve the sale, there would be several months of continued negotiation, “my concern is that these negotiations would continue to be in executive session. I am also concerned the only information available to the public will be from a Chugach PowerPoint in which only cites their benefits.”
Brady said she was “uncomfortable” serving on a “municipal commission and publicly expressing views that may not agree with Municipality’s position.”
Brady is not alone in being concerned about how the deal is being handled.
Maybe such a sale would be a good deal. Maybe it would not. Until questions are answered in detail – in sworn testimony – about the sale, how are we to believe that it is? In addition to promising taxes will not be going up because of the sale, Chugach and the city also, among other things, promise reduced long-term electric rates, no job losses at either utility and increased efficiency. The kicker is that those promises carry the tag line: “as a result of the transaction.”
What about the obvious redundancies? What about two complete organizations doing the same job? It is hard to see increased efficiency in all that.
Add to that the secrecy and speed involved in getting the proposed deal on the ballot. So far, talks have, as Brady points out, occurred behind closed doors. Assembly members, in fact, have been barred from talking in public about the deal’s details.
The purchase, if approved, must be completed by Dec. 31. Chugach would pay $712 million to cover about $542 million of ML&P debt and $170 million in equity. Over the next 30 years, Chugach would pay a $170 million acquisition payment and $142 million in lieu of taxes. That’s slightly more than $1 billion.