BY TOM HESTER SR.
Gov. Chris Christie Thursday nominated state Board of Public Utilities President Lee Solomon to return to the state Superior Court in Camden County and nominated Robert Hanna, director of the state Division of Law, to replace him as head of the BPU.
Solomon, a former Camden County prosecutor and a Republican, has headed the BPU since January 2010.
“Lee has served the people of New Jersey in a tireless and accomplished manner. I am pleased that he will continue his strong record of public service by returning to the Superior Court bench in Camden County,” Christie said.
“President Solomon has been an indispensable member of my administration over the past twenty-two months, providing critical leadership and decision making as we’ve navigated through difficult times and events faced by our state,” the governor said.
“Under Lee’s leadership, we have made real progress for our state by expanding clean, renewable energy production like solar and offshore wind and putting forward a responsible, aggressive and achievable Energy Master Plan for New Jersey’s energy future. I thank Lee for his service to the people of New Jersey, and am pleased to announce my nomination of Bob Hanna, an extraordinarily qualified and talented individual, to succeed him as the next BPU president.”
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve my state as a member of this administration and achieve concrete steps to further Governor Christie’s agenda to maintain New Jersey’s national leadership in the use of renewable energy sources, now and in the future,” Solomon said. “I am thankful for the opportunity and challenge of serving in this unique role, and for the prospect of continuing to serve the people of New Jersey by returning to the state judiciary.”
Prior to his appointment by Christie as law director on Jan. 8, 2010, Hanna, of Madison, was a director in the law firm of Gibbons P.C. in Newark. He served for 16 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Newark, including service in the Civil and Frauds divisions and service as chief of the Securities and Health Care Fraud Unit and Criminal Health Care Fraud coordinator. A number of those years were served under then-U.S. Attorney Christie.
Hanna is a graduate of Manhattan College and the Fordham University School of Law.
Both the Solomon and Hanna nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.
Solomon’s BPU service did not gain praise from New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.
“Under Board President Lee Solomon and Governor Christie we have seen the dismantling of some of the most successful clean energy programs in the county,” Tittel said. “They have cut back our renewable energy goals and subsidized fossil fuels. Their policies have hurt not only our environment but our economy and have undermined our ability to create clean energy jobs in New Jersey.”
“When we pulled out of RGGI and dropped our renewable energy goals we saw a major drop in the coast of solar credits, hurting the solar industry,” Tittel said. “In spite of President Solomon and Governor Christie’s policies, New Jersey is still number two in the country for solar.
“We are concerned who Governor Christie will appoint as a replacement (Hanna) and if that individual will have a background in clean energy or if the governor will appoint someone who will just become a rubberstamp for polluters.
“Going to meetings with President Solomon were always interesting, from wanting to know if I was going to get called to testify on issues or if I did get a chance to speak getting cross examined by Mr. Solomon, a former prosecutor,” Tittel said. “Even though we disagreed on major policy issues he made those meeting very entertaining.”
Bill Dressel, New Jersey State League of Municipalities director, did offer praise for Solomon.
“Throughout his tenure at the board, Lee has carefully and judiciously balanced the needs of ratepayers today, with the need for investments in our state’s energy, communications and environmental infrastructure for the future," Dressel said. "And throughout his career at the local, county and state levels of government - and in all three branches at the state level – the people of our state are lucky to have benefited his energetic, ethical, efficient and effective service.
“His energetic responses during and after Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and our recent freak October snowstorm are sincerely and especially appreciated by the League and by the mayors whose constituents were forced to wait far too long for the restoration of power," Dressel concluded.