State Rep. Hermina Morita, the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee chairwoman who has spearheaded initiatives such as the "bottle bill" for recycling beverage containers, has been tapped by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to head the Public Utilities Commission.
Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa) would take charge of the quasi-judicial body responsible for setting rates for public utilities, including electricity, telecommunications, water and taxicab services.
Her nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.
Morita described her appointment as bittersweet.
"I’m at a loss for words," she said. "It’s a very daunting task. I see the Public Utilities Commission as an important economic driver for the state, and its decisions touch every resident and business throughout the state of Hawaii."
House Speaker Calvin Say applauded the governor’s decision.
Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) said, "She has become one of the state’s experts on energy and the environment, and while her departure will be a great loss for the House, the state will gain a competent and well-respected chair of the Public Utilities Commission."
Morita’s appointment also drew praise from Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, who described her as a legislator who "immerses" herself in her subject matter.
"Hermina Morita is a powerful addition to the Public Utilities Commission," Mikulina said. "She has been the resident expert on energy at the state Capitol for the past dozen years."
Morita, a 14-year veteran of the state House, would replace Carlito Caliboso, who has served as PUC chairman since 2003. He is leaving in the middle of a second six-year term that expires June 30, 2014.