Slate of nominees chosen for governor to consider for PRC appointments

Hannah Grover
NM Political Report

The nominating committee tasked with submitting candidates to the governor for appointment to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission chose nine people to nominate. The slate of names includes one Republican.

The committee met on Friday and quickly agreed on the slate of names. The governor will choose three of those nominees to appoint as commissioners and the state Senate will have the chance to confirm those nominees.

No more than two of the three appointees can be from the same political party. Of the names submitted to the governor, five of them are Democrat and three are Decline to State, sometimes also referred to as independent.

The nine names include Gabriel Aguilera, James Ellison, Brian Moore, Carolyn Glick, Joseph Little, Patrick O’Connell, Arthur O’Donnell, Amy Stein and Cholla Khoury.

O’Connell, Little, Stein, Khoury and Aguilera are Democrats. Glick, O’Donnell and Ellison are registered as decline to state. Moore is a Republican who previously served on the state Renewable Energy Transition Authority.

Of the nominees, seven currently live in New Mexico and six live either in Bernalillo or Santa Fe counties. Moore is from Curry County.

This comes as some New Mexicans have concerns about lost geographic representation amid the change from an elected to appointed political body.

During the public comment section, Joseph Hernandez, the Diné energy organizer for NAVA Education Project, urged the committee to nominate Little. He said it is important that the Native American communities have a voice on the PRC.

Little is an attorney who has represented the All Pueblo Council of Governors and recently served as general counsel for Zia Pueblo. While working for Zia Pueblo, he was involved in developing solar power generation capabilities. He also has experience serving as a federal negotiator on several water settlements.

Aguilera has specialized in the Western U.S. energy market while working for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington D.C. He was raised in southern New Mexico and attended New Mexico State University.

Ellison is a grid analyst at Sandia National Laboratories and also has experience working in the electric utility sector.

Glick worked for the PRC for more than 16 years before retiring last year, including as a hearing examiner. After retiring, she has continued to provide part-time contract service for the PRC’s Office of General Counsel.

O’Connell currently serves as the deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program and previously worked at Public Service Company of New Mexico as a senior natural gas supply planner. He also has experience in water and wastewater utilities from working as a staff engineer at Sangre de Cristo Water Company.

O’Donnell has been assisting the PRC with developing the community solar program in his role as a solar innovator appointed by the U.S. Department of Energy. This role ended in November.

Stein teaches topics like energy law and climate change law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Khoury is the chief deputy attorney general of civil affairs for the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.

The PRC will transition to a governor appointed body in January. That change comes as a result of a constitutional amendment that passed during the 2020 election.

Nominating committee member Cydney Beadles, a former PRC employee, spoke about the concerns surrounding the change. She said when she started working at the PRC the body was an appointed body rather than elected. Beadles said while the current PRC commission has done some really good work, the appointed bodies generally served the public interest better.

She said the first batch of appointed commissioners needs to be able to “hit the ground running.”

“I say that because the utilities are facing huge challenges as energy sources, grid operations, energy markets are undergoing major transformation,” she said. “The utilities need predictable regulation now more than ever, and we, the state, need them as partners to spur economic growth and prosperity and more jobs for New Mexicans. Consumers need to feel confident that the commissioners know how to ensure that utilities spend no more than they have to during these rapidly changing conditions so that ratepayers pay no more than they have to.”