Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday afternoon dismissed a growing political controversy surrounding Hermina Morita's future as chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission as "Internet chatter" and "speculation."
Two dozen state lawmakers and many in the environmental community have urged the governor to keep Morita, a former House lawmaker, after reports that he might not appoint her to another term.
Morita has met privately with Abercrombie in recent days to discuss her role.
Abercrombie said the state has to make progress toward alternative and renewable energy to reduce high electricity costs.
"We're in an energy policy crisis right now. We need a strong commission that's going to have and make its decisions in a timely way," the governor said.
Abercrombie said the "entire question here is, is can we move forward together? And when I'm satisfied that we are prepared to do that, then you'll see a definitive answer."
State Sen. David Ige, who is challenging Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, issued a statement Wednesday evening calling on the governor to reappoint Morita.
I call upon the Governor to act in the public interest now and reappoint Hermina Morita as chair of the Public Utilities Commission. There is no sound reason to replace her.
This appointment is about the financial responsibility of the PUC to regulate public service companies operating in our state. We are at a critical point in our State’s renewable energy efforts. The legislature has tasked the PUC with strategic, technical, and policy issues to move our State forward.
Energy policy is critical for Hawaii’s long-term future and decisions must be based on the common good for Hawaii’s people as opposed to special interests.
Hermina Morita’s record is clear. Her commitment to public service is unwavering. If the Governor does not reappoint her it will continue to erode trust and confidence in our government.