Ray Burton: Advocate Who Lost Job Was Good For Consumers

Nov 14, 2011

Executive Councilor Ray Burton of Bath says he tried unsuccessfully to keep Meredith Hatfield as the state’s consumer advocate on public utility matters because she has been “independent minded” and helped consumers.

But last week the Republican controlled Executive Council voted 3 – 2 against re-appointing Hatfield who represents consumer interests before the Public Utilities Commission.

Burton and Councilor Dan St. Hillaire of Concord were on the losing end ofew today Burton said he found Hatfield was always ready to help North Country consumers and small businesses resolve their problems.

He said while he didn’t always agree with some of Hatfield’s positions “in a case like this you have to take an overall look at the service of someone like Meredith and realize that position of consumer advocate is just what it says, an advocate for the consumers.”

He noted Hatfield didn’t think having Fairpoint Communications take over for Verizon was “the best deal coming down the pike and indeed it went bankrupt. She predicted it might.”

Earlier this year Hatfield also tangled with Public Service of New Hampshire when she opposed a 20-year contract between the utility and a proposed biomass plant in Berlin. She argued it would cost consumers too much and would be too lucrative for the utility.

In its decision later the Public Utilities Commission agreed with many of Hatfield’s concerns and required changes in the contract to better protect consumers.

Hatfield has been consumer advocate for five years.

Burton said the only thing that will save Hatfield’s job is if Governor Lynch will “work with the council to perhaps change a few minds or maybe even one mind and get a 3-2 vote of confirmation rather than a 3-2 vote of denial."

One of those who voted against Hatfield, Councilor Chris Sununu, of Newfields, has said he was concerned about her stance on the Laidlaw Biomass Plant in Berlin as well as some of her opinions on the PSNH power plant in Bow.

“The consumer advocate’s role is not to be a bully, and I’m not saying Meredith was, but you have to be very careful, they eye of your prize can’t be just beating up on PSNH,” he told NHPR last week.

Sununu was joined by Councilor Raymond J. Wieczorek of Manchester and David K. Wheeler of Milford.