New Mexico appointment resigns from powerful oversight board

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — One of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s recent appointments to a powerful utility regulatory commission has resigned, citing a lack of educational qualifications.

The Democratic governor on Tuesday announced Brian Moore’s resignation, saying she was filling his seat with a senior analyst from Sandia National Laboratories who has worked on grid upgrade and energy storage projects.

James Ellison Jr. has nearly three decades of experience operating utility companies and energy markets and holds multiple degrees from Clemson University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

The composition of the Public Regulation Commission was recently changed due to a constitutional amendment that changed the elected body to one where the governor nominates members from a list of finalists chosen by a nominating committee.

Ellison was among 15 finalists whose names had been forwarded to the governor.

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The new commission will hear a number of pivotal cases over the next year, including a decision on a multi-billion dollar case involving New Mexico’s Public Service Co., the state’s largest electric utility.

The commissioners may also have to reconsider a controversial merger between PNM and Avangrid, a US subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola.

Ellison, a registered independent, said in his application letter that he knows what it takes to keep the lights going and vowed to be fair and impartial.

“The transition to renewable energy must be managed carefully to maintain reliability,” he wrote. “While ensuring tariff affordability is a key objective, the Commission must also provide utilities with the resources and tools needed to succeed.”

Moore, a former state legislature who once served on the board of directors of the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, submitted a letter of resignation to the governor less than two weeks after his appointment. The Republican said he didn’t meet the legal educational requirements for the job.

The other two gubernatorial appointments are Patrick O’Connell and Gabriel Aguilera, both Democrats.

O’Connell, an engineer with more than two decades of experience, previously worked for PNM as the utility’s director of planning and resources before becoming interim director of clean energy at Western Resource Advocates.

A graduate of New Mexico State University, Aguilera has worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since 2007. Most recently, he served as Senior Policy Advisor for FERC’s Office of Energy Market Regulation.

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