Former Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn recently answered questions posed by Alabama Today via email on his decision last week to reconsider dropping his challenge to PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. Dunn filed for the Republican primary nomination Friday, hours before the qualifying deadline.
Dunn says he is in the race to push back against Alabama Power and the utilities, which he said have an outsized influence over the current commissioners.
He’s employing on something of a populist message in his bid to return to the commission as its chief.
“I feel like the average ratepayers and small business owners are not being truly represented,” said Dunn. “My name being on the ballot will give ratepayers a choice; do they want a Commissioner with a record of standing up for ratepayers or one that looks out solely for the interest of the utility companies?”
This is the same campaign theme and question he used in his failed campaign for re-election against Commissioner Chip Beeker who handedly defeated him 51% to 41% in 2014.
His former Chief of Staff David Rountree has been criticized, like Dunn himself, for pushing for formal rate hearings for Alabama Power, creating what critics called a litigious “courtroom-style” atmosphere wherein testifiers must be sworn in and retain an attorney. In lieu of such hearings, informal public meetings were held around the state in 2013. These hearings allowed consumers, consumer advocacy groups and others the opportunity to participate in the process.
Responding to an inquiry, Dunn said Rountree will not be a part of the campaign or his administration should he be elected. Rountree now edits a magazine and is nearing retirement age.
“Jerry Renfroe, who has worked in telecommunications for years, is actively involved in my campaign efforts at this time,” said Dunn over the weekend.
“My plan to win going forward is to remind the ratepayers that they were deceived by Twinkle Cavanaugh,” said Dunn, asked about his plan to bounce back after a defeat at the hands of Beeker last cycle.
Dunn accuses Cavanaugh of not doing enough to stop rate increases which Alabama Power asked for in response to increased costs associated with compliance of EPA regulations. He also went on to say she hadn’t done enough for coal miners.
Cavanaugh’s record shows that she has been among the state’s loudest advocates against the EPA regulations which would result in the loss of coal jobs. She and the other two commissioners wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to revisit his so-called Clean Power Plan, specifically citing coal jobs. Cavanaugh was criticized and widely mocked by environmentalists nationally for asking residents to pray that the right thing would be done.
Dunn challenges the idea that the EPA is the biggest threat to coal jobs.
“The coal miners need to be asking their congressman and representatives why they continue to let China dump cheap steel in the US? That’s the main reason the coal industry is suffering today,” said Dunn.