Cavanaugh Hard at Work as Alabama’s PSC

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Twinkie Cavanaugh Hard at Work for Alabama's Public Service CommissionerYes, it is her real name. Alabama’s Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh had to field the question often on the campaign trail. So did her Republican colleague Young Boozer. And yes, that is his real name, too. But the name recognizion factor must have worked. Cavanaugh is now hard at work in her new post, and she spoke to the noon meeting of the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club last Tuesday about some of the challenges she faces.

Most recongnize the importance of the PSC for regulating power utilities, Cavanaugh said, and that is certainly one of her main responsibilities. But the PSC does much more, especially the other kinds of regulation work that no one else wants to do. The PSC regulates certain natural gas utilities, for example, transportation (ever wonder who regulates out eighteen-wheelers, limo services and moving companies?) and some of what is left of the land-line phone network. Amid all of these tasks Cavanaugh has determined three points of focus for her administration. She wants hard working and ethical commissioners, reliable services and reasonable rates.


To the first point, Cavanaugh hs worked hard to “clean up the perception” of the PSC, and she set the tone in her first meeting. “I am not leaving this chair,” she said emphatically, “until we have real ethics reform.” And she has led by example: Twinkle Cavanaugh does not use a state car, and does not use a state cell phone when on the job. She even paid for her lunch at the Rotary Club!


Ensuring reliable service is a challenge for the PSC in any environment. But the unprecedented damage in the wake of April’s storms was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. The numbers only begin to tell the story: 7,500 utility poles destroyed; over 400 utility structures; 3,000 transformers and 318 substations, 890 miles of wire. The PSC was hard at work overseeing the restorations from day one, and remains hard at work today.


Cavanaugh is also lobbying in Washington for Alabama energy and utility companies, now faced with growing regulations of coal power plants and emissions. The key is to find a balance, she said, between valid enironmental concerns and the pressing need for jobs and incomes for ordinary families.

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