When his predecessor left for a job in the private sector, O. Ray Bourland III was handed the task of deciding the biggest rate case in the state's history -- a decision that will affect the electric bills of all Baltimoreans as well as the financial health of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
In his new position as chief hearing examiner for the state's Public Service Commission, Mr. Bourland will decide who should pay approximately $450 million for BG&E's purchases of power to fill the void caused by problems at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.
This won't be the first time the 37-year-old White Hall resident has been on the hot seat, though.
Mr. Bourland, who has been a hearing examiner for the state's utility regulating agency for 12 years, recently handled the Baltimore City taxicab companies' requests for a rate increase. His proposed ruling, which would have given the cabs a rate increase but would have also provided for improved call service, has been appealed.
In addition, Mr. Bourland last year settled Potomac Electric Power Co.'s request to build an additional generator at its Dickerson station in Western Maryland.
Mr. Bourland said he was proud that his decision, which required the Washington, D.C.-based utility to clean up its existing smokestacks, means the company will pollute less while making more power.
Jumping into the preparations for the BG&E replacement power case might be a bit daunting, though.
So far, Mr. Bourland said, the parties have already amassed a huge amount of information -- consumer representatives report receiving 70,000 pages of documents from BG&E.
Most of that probably won't be introduced as evidence before him. Still, the investigation is taking so long that many parties won't be able to present testimony for several more months.
Mr. Bourland, who majored in English at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, said his liberal arts training actually helps him slog through mounds of written evidence that can be, at times, dry, technical material.
Mr. Bourland, a 1979 graduate of the University of Maryland's law school, said a hearing examiner's job is like a judge's. The examiner must decide what is the fairest way to apportion the costs.