Temporary member nominated for seat on PUC
Gov. David Ige nominated Tom Gorak to be confirmed as a commissioner of the state panel responsible for regulating public utilities, after having served as interim commissioner for nine months.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Gov. David Ige nominated Tom
Gorak to be confirmed as a commissioner of the state panel responsible for regulating public utilities, after having served as interim commissioner for nine months.
Ige submitted Gorak’s name Tuesday for “consideration and confirmation” to the Public Utilities Commission for a term to expire June 30, 2022. The PUC regulates companies such as Hawaiian Electric Co. and Young Brothers Ltd.
Gorak said Thursday he is “honored to be nominated and looks forward to going through the confirmation process.”
In June, Ige appointed Gorak as an interim member of the commission to take over for Mike Champley, whose term expired June 30. Champley was appointed to the commission in 2011 by then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Gorak still has a long road ahead of him before being confirmed as a commissioner serving alongside Lorraine Akiba and Chairman Randy Iwase. Gorak has to be approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health and then by the entire Senate. His confirmation has not yet been scheduled for a hearing date with the committee.
His interim appointment was met with controversy as it came just two weeks before the PUC announced its decision to reject Florida-based
NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion offer to purchase Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. The deal was rejected 2-0 with Gorak abstaining from the ruling.
HEI owns Hawaiian Electric Co., Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co., as well as American Savings Bank. American Savings would have been spun off as an independent company as part of NextEra’s acquisition.
A Hawaii First Circuit Court ruled in August that Ige’s appointment of Gorak to be a commissioner is valid, after former PUC Chairwoman Mina Morita filed a lawsuit against Ige’s appointment. Morita was seeking to remove Gorak, alleging he had no legal right to hold the position.
Morita, as well as some members of the state Senate, questioned the legality of the appointment because Ige was outspoken in his opposition to the sale.
Iwase said he was pleased Gorak was nominated and did not believe the previous controversy will have an impact on Gorak’s confirmation.
“Tom Gorak is an outstanding nominee,” he said. “He is one of the most qualified nominees we had had in many years. I think people in the Senate will be open-minded. They’ll be impressed with the quality of this nomination.”
Before his appointment as interim commissioner, Gorak was chief counsel of the PUC with Morita, serving since 2013. Gorak has been working in public utility regulation for 37 years.
“It’s invaluable to have that institutional memory,” Iwase said. “Serving over the past several months as commissioner, he brings that knowledge of history at the PUC.”