Christie names Dianne Solomon to head BPU

Dianne Solomon. Senate OK not required.
Dianne Solomon. Senate OK not required.
Posted: January 18, 2014

TRENTON With little fanfare, Gov. Christie has named Dianne Solomon of Haddonfield president of the Board of Public Utilities, the state agency charged with approving rates for gas, electricity, cable, and water companies, and implementing state energy policy.

A paralegal with close political ties to Christie, Solomon is the wife of Superior Court Judge Lee A. Solomon, who served as BPU president from 2010 to 2012. She succeeds Robert M. Hanna, who was confirmed this week as a judge of the Superior Court.

Christie first named Solomon to the board in April, and the Senate confirmed her in June. Prior to that appointment, she served as commissioner of the South Jersey Transportation Authority starting in September 2010.

Although her appointment was hailed by some groups who work regularly with the board, such as the New Jersey Energy Coalition and the New Jersey Solar Grid Supply Association, some environmentalists complained that Solomon lacks the experience in energy policy or law necessary to head the powerful board.

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, said he was disappointed by Solomon's appointment because she "does not have any background in energy policy or utility law. She was appointed because she will do what the governor wants, and his agenda is to roll back clean energy and subsidize fossil fuel plants."

Bob Marshall, director of the New Jersey Energy Coalition, which represents utilities as well as wind- and solar-power firms, said she was "as well-qualified as the others on the board" and predicted she would "do a fine job" with the assistance of the board's professional staff and consultants.

The BPU has about 250 employees.

Christie's office did not issue a statement announcing Solomon's appointment or respond to a request Thursday for comment on her selection. The appointment was made Tuesday.

Christie appointed her to a six-year term on the BPU. Her appointment as president makes her a member of Christie's cabinet and does not require fresh Senate approval.

Greg Reinert, a BPU spokesman, said Solomon was out of state Thursday and not available for an interview.

A lawyer who appears frequently before the BPU called Solomon's appointment as president a "fairly strong break from the practice of many years to require [the BPU head] to have both expertise and political credentials." He asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

Frank Felder, director of the center for energy, economic, and environmental policy at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, said Thursday he was unaware she had been named.

Felder said that while the governor's office and the Legislature decide most of the state's energy goals, "a lot of incredibly important decisions have to be made by the BPU."

Solomon is a graduate of Rider University with a degree in political science. She attended the Philadelphia Institute for Paralegal Studies and served as president of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals. She also has served on the board of directors of the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill.

Among the matters before the board, Felder said, are a request by Public Service Electric & Gas for a $3.9 billion project to strengthen and protect its infrastructure from devastating storms like Sandy, and a petition from Jersey Central Power & Light for permission to recoup from customers about $630 million in costs related to Sandy recovery.


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