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'On FairPoint, Hatfield knew best'

'Donald M. Kreis, South Royalton, Vt.'

In my course on utility regulation at Vermont Law School, I teach my students that 'regulatory capture' - the notion that ongoing contact breeds an unhelpful friendliness between utilities and their regulators - is both real and harmful to consumers.

In New Hampshire, as in most states, an effective antidote is to give someone the job of advocating on behalf of customers - in effect, to fight regulatory capture by industry with regulatory capture by a consumer advocate. Nobody in the country with such a job has done it more effectively and vigilantly than Meredith Hatfield, whom the Executive Council has just ousted as New Hampshire's consumer advocate.

The consumer advocate in every state faces the same challenge: balancing customers' short-term interest in lower rates with their long-term interest in an electricity grid that is environmentally sustainable and able to meet future needs for safe and reliable service.

Hatfield's record demonstrates that she met this challenge in an intellectually honest and, certainly, a nonpartisan manner.

The Monitor's Nov. 10 story about Hatfield's non-reappointment focused on electricity, but this is a good time to remember that she never folded in her opposition to Verizon's selling its land-line telephone network to FairPoint.

At the time, she warned of poor service and a possible FairPoint bankruptcy. The deal won approval over Hatfield's objection and the rest, as they say, is history. May her successor as consumer advocate be as prescient.


South Royalton, Vt.

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