UPDATED: Hochstetter to Leave PSC for Electric Co-op

Sandra Hochsetter announced Tuesday that she will soon resign as commissioner of the Arkansas Public Service Commission to become vice president of strategic affairs for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., one of the utilities the commission regulates.

Although her date of departure is not certain, she told ArkansasBusiness.com that it would be in the next "month or two" - sooner than she had initially expected because she's been asked to recuse from consideration of Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s controversial application to build a coal-fired generating plant in Hempstead County.

"We just found out that the hunting clubs would prefer that I recuse," Hochstetter said, referring to vocal opponents of Swepco's plan. AECC is negotiating with Swepco for an ownership stake in the plant.

Hochstetter said she had not been involved in the negotiations and felt that she could fairly consider Swepco's application but wanted to leave that decision to the parties. She said she would be filing a formal recusal on Tuesday afternoon, required Gov. Mike Beebe to appoint a special commissioner to hear that case.

Beebe appointed David Newbern of Little Rock as a special member for the commission. Newbern, 70, is former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice. He recently worked as a special master in the Lake View education case. 

Meanwhile, Hochstetter said she will continue participating in cases that don't involve AECC, including energy efficiency docket items that don't apply to cooperative power providers.

Hochstetter became chairman of the PSC under Gov. Mike Huckabee. She continued as one of three commissioners when Beebe named Paul Suskie as chairman of the commission in January.

Click here to see the news release on Hochstetter's resignation.