CPS Energy Board Chair resigns after weeks of pressure

December 8, 2009

Greg Harman
San Antonio Current

It took some doing, and some help from his friends, but Mayor Julián Castro appears to have finally wrested a resignation from CPS Energy Board Chair Aurora Geis this week. Geis was repolishing her resignation Tuesday afternoon, while stating she felt strongly that she is leaving utility is on the right path despite the challenges that are ahead.

"The timing of it is not what I would have preferred because there is so much stability that needs to be put in place," Geis said. "But now the greater challenge that we face is identifying a candidate who will be willing to serve."

Unlike the newly former CPS GM Steve Bartley’s "effective immediately" exit, Geis will linger a bit until a replacement is found. Even as she has written and rewritten her departure letter, the full board has been discussing possible replacements for her.

These have included Valero CEO Bill Klesse, fresh from Mad Money’s Wall of Shame, now waging war on cap-and-trade; former SBC Pres Wayne Alexander, serving on the Port San Anto board, and Ed Kelly, retired USAA Real Estate boss.

Whoever steps into Geis’ slot will have to face down several immediate challenges, foremost being regaining the public’s trust after key members of CPS lied to the public about the anticipated cost of the planned expansion of the South Texas Plant nuclear complex for months. They’ll also have to help the board and staff figure out how to finance an additional $8 billion in capital over the next seven years; nail down a new strategic energy plan, which most likely will not include nuclear; manage potential lawsuit havoc with STP partner NRG Energy; prepare a new carbon strategy even as the U.S. EPA prepares to regulate the greenhouse gas as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act; and lure in a new CEO to replace deadwood Milton Lee at a significantly reduced salary.

As Geis says: "There are a lot of issues that have to be addressed."

And while Geis’ resignation is not in hand, as yet, less clear is the future of fellow Boardie Steve Hennigan, whose head Castro likewise covets. Geis says she will be urging her fellow Board member to stick it out, but Castro’s office says the call for Hennigan’s head remains.

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