Andress shares insight on ethics

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It wasn’t a spark, but a twinkle in the eyes of those gathered at the Pike County Republican Women’s meeting Wednesday.

Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Alabama Public Service Commissioner (Place 1), was the guest speaker during the meeting and said she was more than happy to come and speak with her constituents.

“This is home for me and I’m always thrilled to come back to Pike County and to Troy,” Cavanaugh said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The women’s group listened as Cavanaugh explained what the Alabama Public Service Commission (APSC) was responsible for and the strong ethical nature of the commission, as it strives to better serve the citizens of Pike County, as well Alabamians throughout the state.

Cavanaugh said ethics underscored much of what the APSC was all about and said that the Ethics Package that was passed at the first commission meeting “set the tone at the commission.”

“A big issue at the Public Service Commission is the ethics,” Cavanaugh said, referencing fair hearings for the people of Alabama. “Even if there is a perception that the people of Alabama are not going to get a fair hearing, then that’s wrong.”

Cavanaugh said that to illustrate the issue she uses easy-to-explain examples.

“I always use the example that if you were going to court and you found out that the jury was taken out to dinner or the lawyer on the opposing side had bought them football tickets, do you really think the jury would render a fair decision?” Cavanaugh said. “I would say probably not. That wouldn’t be fair. It’s the same with the Public Service Commission. We needed to take all those incentives off the table so that commissioners can truly look at both sides of an argument and give a fair ruling for the people of Alabama.”

Cavanaugh said she and her fellow commissioners aim to “do the business” of the people of Alabama and strive for transparency.

“I keep a folder in my office and put all my receipts, if I go to lunch or dinner with anybody, I keep all my receipts in there that shows that I paid for it,” Cavanaugh said.

In addition to the APSC’s adherence to strong ethical values, Cavanaugh said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been another hot topic for the commission.

“One of the things that I think is so important for the people to know is, let’s say we regulate coal to the point where we outlaw it,” Cavanaugh said. “Well, we’re just going to send our coal to places like South America, China and India. China and India are buying our coal, so they’re going to use it. We all share the same environment, so why do we want to price ourselves out of being able to recruit industry into the state of Alabama?”

According to Cavanaugh, Alabama has been blessed with “bountiful rivers” that we can dam and use for hydroelectricity, a 200-year supply of coal and we also have a Natural Gas Plant and a Nuclear Plant.

“Those allow us to be very competitive in bringing jobs and industry to the state,” Cavanaugh said. “We don’t want to lose that competitive advantage and what the EPA is trying to do is penalize us here in the South by ‘being the great equalizer’ or having, basically, a nationalized price for energy. We don’t need that to happen, because it would be very detrimental.”

Cavanaugh said the Public Service Commission did not have a “direct role” in staving off EPA’s influence on energy. “The only way you can limit EPA’s input is to have Congress take their funding away,” Cavanaugh said. “I hope that will happen, because I think they have become very reckless right now and it will really drive up our prices here in Alabama. However, at the Public Service Commission, I believe it is our duty to explain to the public and to be able to be a loud voice in Washington as to how detrimental this would be to the Southeast, especially to Alabama.”

Cavanaugh said that families in Alabama are unable to afford higher utility costs right now and that, when it comes to power, Alabamians need lower costs and not higher costs.

“Right now, the average family pays $100 a month for their power and $13.50 of that is an environmental cost,” Cavanaugh said. “Do we really want that to go up, double or triple the cost?”