Nebraska Unicameral examines changing how OPPD, NPPD utility CEOs selected

Critics are calling the bill a power grab
A bill proposes the governor appoint the leaders for OPPD and NPPD.
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 7:36 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - As it stands now, the public elects the board members for both OPPD and NPPD. Those elected boards hire the CEOs for each organization.

LB 1046 would grant the governor the power to appoint the CEO at both operations. In OPPD’s case the governor would also get to appoint five board members, while only four would be elected.

“This would take away the voice of the citizens and put the majority control in the hands of one person, the governor,” said Nebraska Power Association president Neal Suess.

Catherine Carne of Omaha said, “The current make-up of the school boards and natural resources district are similar to the utility boards -- of the people, by the people and for the people.”

A number of leaders of public power districts in Nebraska lined up to oppose the bill.

“We are among the most reliable utilities in the nation and our history and track record doesn’t warrant these changes,” said OPPD CEO Javier Fernandez.

“Creating a situation where the CEO serves at the pleasure of the governor and direction from the board is a recipe for confusion and conflict,” said NPPD president Tom Kent.

Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard says the utility boards need more expertise in an ever changing energy landscape. That’s why he proposed the changes.

Senator John Cavanaugh of Omaha questioned that explanation by asking if Bostleman trusted the voters who elect the board members. Bostleman replied saying it’s about a lack of expertise.

Based on the hearing, the bill doesn’t seem to have much support right now. But that could always change at the Nebraska Unicameral.

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