HEA change rejected

In a vote of 70 percent opposed, Homer Electric Association members soundly defeated a proposal to deregulate the member-owned electric cooperative. With 6,896 total votes, 4,854 voted no and 2,042 voted yes. That means HEA will remain under Regulatory Commission of Alaska oversight. The total votes received also was well above the 3,506 threshold, or 15 percent of the 23,371 ballots mailed, for the election to be valid under Alaska law. The RCA certified the election in an order released Dec. 20.

“I think you saw a mandate from the HEA ratepayers that they didn’t want to see their electric cooperative become an unregulated monopoly,” said Bob Shavelson, an opponent of deregulation. “Based on HEA’s behavior during this election in refusing to answer questions and so forth, ratepayers want some basic oversight with their coop.”

Shavelson, the head of Cook Inletkeeper, also had filed with Peter McKay a complaint challenging a parallel attempt to deregulate the Alaska Electric and Energy Cooperative, a subsidiary of HEA. The HEA board last May had recommended that both HEA and the AEEC be deregulated. The HEA board also is the board of the AEEC and would have sole authority to vote to deregulate the AEEC. The AEEC in late October filed for a deregulation vote.

Shavelson and McKay challenged that filing, saying HEA should have disclosed its intent earlier and that HEA members should also vote on deregulating AEEC. Earlier this month RCA ordered an investigation into their complaint.

HEA was pleased with the voter turnout, said spokesperson Bruce Shelley.

“The HEA Board of Directors would like to thank each and every one of the members for voting on this important matter,” Shelley said in a press release on Tuesday. “Almost one third of the membership voted, which highlights one of the values of the cooperative model, enabling members to provide direction to their utility.”

HEA general manager Brad Janorschke is on vacation in Hawaii and was unavailable for comment, Shelley said. Before Janorschke left on Monday, he did tell Shelley that he was pleased with the member turnout, Shelley said. During the election, while Janorschke advocated in public meetings for what he called “local control,” Janorschke also said the most important thing was that members be well informed about deregulation.

At press time, Shelley said he did not know if HEA officials would withdraw the petition to deregulate the AEEC. HEA attorney Rick Baldwin had said earlier that in regards to the AEEC deregulation vote, “My understanding from the board is the board is going to follow the lead of the members regardless the way it goes,” he said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.