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December 20. 2013 3:53PM

Busy Executive Council confirms judges, PUC commissioner, approves renewable energy grants

CONCORD -- The Executive Council Friday filled key vacant state posts by confirming four new Circuit Court judges and a new Public Utilities Commissioner.

In its final meeting of 2013, the council also approved the PUC’s requests to award a total of $2.26 million to seven renewable energy grants, funded by the state’s Renewable Energy Fund.

Also at the meeting, Gov. Maggie Hassan unveiled a portrait of the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, which was first displayed at the memorial service in his honor at Plymouth State University last Saturday.

The portrait, showing a smiling Burton in one of his familiar campaign baseball caps, will be permanently on display in the Executive Council Chambers.  It was painted three years ago by Craig Pursley of Bath.

“It goes without saying we all miss him very, very much,” Hassan said of Burton, who died in November in the midst of his 18th term representing the northern third of the state. “He was the model of public service in New Hampshire and one that will not be replicated.”

The council confirmed to the Circuit Court bench Robert Foley of Dover, Margaret-Ann Moran of Manchester and Patricia Quigley of Concord on 4-0 votes, while Susan Carbon of Chichester, was confirmed on a 3-1 vote, with Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, dissenting.

Hassan said following the vote that the four new judges “have all demonstrated a deep commitment to ensuring justice is done fairly and effectively” and have shown “good character and judicial temperament required of successful judges.”

Sununu said Carbon “is a very nice lady and has done an immense amount of work as an advocate for women.”

But he said he and the other councilors “received a large amount of concerns” about her from members of the public and attorneys, and he said she did not address those concerns to his satisfaction at her public hearing in early December.

Sununu said he realized that Carbon’s role as a judge in the court’s Family Division would prompt many people in domestic disputes to be unhappy with her decisions.

But he said the number of complaints he received were “abnormally high.”

“There were also comments from lawyers and not just plaintiffs and defendants,” he said. “It leaves me with enough hesitation that she is just not right for this position.”

But councilors Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas came to Carbon’s defense.

Van Ostern said Carbon received bipartisan support from U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and former top court officials.

Concord attorney Martin Honigberg was unanimously confirmed to the PUC.

The governor said his “long career of public service and his extensive experience with utilities regulation will allow him to successfully fulfill the PUC’s critical mission of protecting consumers and ensuring that our people, families and businesses are able to receive safe, adequate and reliable utility service at reasonable and fair rates.”

Meanwhile, Kathryn E. Skouteris of Merrimack was confirmed as Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Administration.

Hassan also submitted the nominations to the Superior Court bench of David A. Anderson of Portsmouth, Lawrence A. MacLeod of Lebanon and Charles S. Temple of Concord. She also nominated David S. Forrest of Temple and Elizabeth M. Leonard of Concord to Circuit Court judgeships.

She also offered the nomination of Carmen R. Lorentz of Belmont as Director of the Division of Economic Development in the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Lorentz has most recently served as executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council.

The council also accepted the resignation of Timothy J. Vaughan of Littleton as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court.

Four of the renewable energy projects brought to the council by the PUC were approved unanimously, while Sununu was the lone dissenter on three projects.

He questioned the cost-effectiveness of a $1 million grant for a wind energy project on Jericho Mountain in Berlin, a $317,000 grant for a solar powered system at the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District’s wastewater treatment plant, and a $175,000 grant for a solar powered system at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge.

Sununu said solar project are “silly” in New Hampshire because the systems “are covered in snow half the year.”

He also questioned $1 million on the Jericho Mountain wind project when a large wind-powered system in the Groton-Rumney area is currently “at a standstill.”

PUC officials promised to a report on the Groton-Rumney project at the next council meeting and said that overall, diverse energy sources required in the state law that created the Renewable Energy Fund.

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