Newsom appoints Energy Advisor as the state’s supreme supply regulator

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom has named his senior adviser on energy policy as the next president …

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – California Governor Gavin Newsom has named his senior adviser on energy policy as the next president of the powerful state regulatory agency.

Alice Reynolds will head the California Public Utilities Commission with five members from Dec. 31 and take over a job that includes overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric and other electrical companies while battling wildfire safety and the use of deliberate power outages to prevent flames. in the nation’s most populous state. Her appointment requires confirmation from the state Senate, but it is often a formality that comes after the person is already in the job.

The Commission also has control over telecommunications, rail, water and transport companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Reynolds replaces Marybel Batjer, who is retiring after taking up the job in 2019. Batjer came to the position with experience of leading state agencies, but had no background in energy policy.

Reynolds, by contrast, has been deeply involved in key issues before the California Public Utilities Commission, including legislation from 2019 that required large utilities to spend billions on security improvements and set up a $ 21 billion fund that these utilities could use to pay claims from catastrophic fires. The legislation came when PG&E was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings after its role in triggering a deadly wildfire in 2018.

“Alice has been indispensable in our work to move California toward a cleaner, more affordable and reliable energy future, navigating the bankruptcy of the state’s largest investor-owned supply and accelerating the state’s progress toward meeting our clean energy goals,” Newsom said in a statement. statement.

Before serving as Newsom’s senior energy adviser, Reynolds had a similar role for former Gov. Jerry Brown. She also served as Deputy Attorney General for Law Enforcement and Advocate General of the State Environmental Protection Agency from 2011 to 2017.

“She’s very qualified to sit in the seat. The question is how she will handle the utilities and whether she will be really tough on them,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, an organization that often sparred with the commission.

Court and Mark Toney, CEO of The Utility Reform Network, another group that regularly interacts with the commission, noted that the CPUC is supposed to operate independently of the governor’s office. But its commissioners, like Reynolds, often have close ties to the executive.

“We would like to remind her that the CPUC Commissioners must make decisions in the public interest regardless of what the governor may wish,” Toney said.

On Monday, the commission issued $ 7.5 million in fines to PG&E for violations of the Security Code. It found that the utility failed to inspect and repair a transmission line in Sausalito between 2009 and 2018 and failed to inspect all of its distribution rods in 2019.

In addition to overseeing security of supply inspections, the Commission has a hand in regulating when utilities can shut off power during high-risk wildfires, as well as their transition to clean energy.

In his role in the Newsom administration, Reynolds has been actively involved in most policies related to the energy sector. It includes the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, efforts to decarbonize buildings in California and the state’s wider transition to clean energy.

“She has unmatched expertise in California’s energy issues,” said Victoria Rome, director of California Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Spokesmen for Newsom’s office and CPUC did not respond to requests for an interview with Reynolds. The job pays nearly $ 230,000 a year.

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