Joseph Harkins, the newest member of the Corporation Commission, doesn’t want to create controversy over the wind-power case before the commission.
The newest member of the Kansas Corporation Commission recused himself Friday from a wind-power case, saying he wanted to avoid “even the slightest appearance of partiality” from his previous jobs guiding alternative energy policies.
Joseph Harkins came to the commission in July after serving as director of the Kansas Energy Office. Before that, he was a special assistant and energy adviser to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius from 2003 to 2006.
“One aspect of that work involved encouraging consideration of alternative energy resources, such as wind, for the benefit of the citizens of this great state,” Harkins wrote in a recusal statement filed late Friday. “I question whether such recent involvement in developing executive policy in this area might cause others to question my participation in deciding the petitions filed in this docket.”
The energy office has strongly pushed for development of wind power in the state, and Sebelius has set a policy goal of getting 10 percent of Kansas electricity from wind by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.
The case Harkins is stepping down from involves determining how Westar Energy should be compensated for building a 300-megawatt wind energy plant, which has an estimated 20-year cost of $830 million.
Westar has said the plant could add $2 to $2.50 to the average residential power bill its first few years of operation.
Westar spokeswoman Karla Olsen said the company had not been informed of Harkins’ recusal and is not sure how it might affect the case.
“We respect Commissioner Harkins’ decision, based on his own principles,” she said. “We remain committed to wind power in Kansas.”
Harkins said he believes that his previous experience will be an asset to the commission and left the door open to hearing future wind cases.
“I recuse myself specifically from this docket due to its filing so soon after my appointment,” he wrote. “My decision should not be construed as setting a precedent for any future matters that may come before the commission.”
By Dion Lefler
10 November 2007
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