A gas industry executive nominated by Gov. Wes Moore to serve on the Maryland Public Service Commission withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday after environmentalists questioned his commitment to fighting climate change and protecting ratepayers’ interests while regulating gas and electric utilities.
Juan Alvarado, the senior director of energy analysis at the American Gas Association—the biggest lobbying group representing the gas industry—said in a statement that he was withdrawing his candidacy for “personal reasons.” But his nomination to the commission by Moore on Feb. 17 had raised hackles, given the new governor’s pledges to shift the state from a reliance on fossil fuels to a full embrace of clean energy.
In a statement released by Moore’s office, Alvarado said, “I firmly believe in Governor Moore’s leadership and vision, and know he will continue moving Maryland towards meeting its vital climate goals.”
An economist by training, Alvarado previously worked at the Public Service Commission in various roles for over a decade, directing the agency’s economic research as well as its telecommunications, gas and water division. Since 2020, he has worked at the American Gas Association and is currently its senior director for energy analysis.
Moore, a Democrat who took over as governor last month, said he respected Alvarado’s decision to withdraw from the confirmation process. “Juan shares our conviction that addressing climate change is the defining challenge of our time, and his deep understanding of the Public Service Commission was knowledge that would have served Maryland well,” he said in a statement.
“Our nominees to the Public Service Commission will be aligned with our administration’s goals,” the governor added. “We will work in partnership throughout this confirmation process to move Maryland forward.” A spokesperson for Moore said Alvarado’s replacement would be announced in the “near future.”
The PSC’s five commissioners, appointed by the governor, serve staggered terms and must be approved by the Maryland Senate.
After taking office, Moore had withdrawn 48 of the recess appointments submitted to the state Senate last July by his Republican predecessor, Larry Hogan, clearing the way for three new PSC appointees. In announcing that he had selected Alvarado on Feb. 17, the governor also nominated Frederick Hoover, currently with the state watchdog agency known as the Office of the People’s Counsel, to head the commission. The third nomination has yet to be submitted by Moore’s office.
Alvarado’s appointment stirred consternation among environmentalists, who had assumed that Moore’s picks would be sympathetic to goals set in the state’s new climate law. In legislation approved last spring, Maryland has set a target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent from 2006 levels by 2031 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2045.
The news of Alvarado’s withdrawal drew cautious expressions of support from environmental groups.
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Kim Coble, executive director of the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters, said her group was focusing on ensuring that “we get strong appointments to that PSC so it can advance the clean energy targets.” She said she was confident that the administration would nominate strong candidates going forward. “We look forward to working with the Moore administration to ensure strong appointments are made at the PSC,” she said.
Emily Scarr, director of the consumer rights group Maryland PIRG, said that Moore’s nominees should be aligned with the administration’s goals. “Marylanders should have full faith that commissioners will fulfill the agency’s mission to serve the public interest, fight for ratepayers, ensure public safety and protect the environment,” she said.
Josh Tulkin, director of the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter, said his group looked forward to working with Moore and the governor’s secretary of appointments, Tisha Edwards, “to ensure the PSC is ready to advance the governor’s bold climate agenda.” Tulkin had argued earlier that Alvarado was the wrong candidate for the job and that his nomination to the commission could jeopardize the governor’s promise to combat climate change.
Environmental advocates have pushed the Moore administration to expedite the appointment of new members to the Public Service Commission. Only last year, the five-member commission was citing the views of climate change deniers, and it is still composed entirely of commissioners appointed by Hogan.