Richmond Times-Dispatch

Northam will appoint former deputy commerce secretary for SCC vacancy

- BY PATRICK WILSON pwilson@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6061 Twitter: @patrickmwi­lson

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that he will appoint Angela Navarro, formerly the state’s deputy commerce secretary, to a vacancy on the State Corporatio­n Commission, the Virginia agency that regulates public utilities and many businesses.

The General Assembly will need to confirm the appointmen­t in next year’s regular session.

The vacancy on the threejudge SCC panel will happen Jan. 4, when Commission­er Mark Christie will take an oath to be seated on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The U.S. Senate voted Monday to confirm Christie to that federal appointmen­t.

State law says that the General Assembly elects the three SCC commission­ers, but the governor can appoint a commission­er to fill a vacancy when the legislatur­e is not in session.

Navarro, of Charlottes­ville, left the Northam administra­tion in early September.

Prior to serving as deputy commerce secretary, she was the state’s deputy natural resources secretary. Before that, she was an attorney with the Southern Environmen­tal Law Center in Charlottes­ville.

Several Democratic lawmakers tweeted their approval of the governor’s announceme­nt.

On the commission, Navarro would be in charge of applying a new environmen­tal law she helped work on this year — the Virginia Clean Economy Act. The law mandates that electric utilities transition to carbon-free energy by 2050, but state regulators estimate that it will lead to a spike in electric bills.

Navarro helped lead negotiatio­ns on the bill, which passed in the regular General Assembly session.

As previously reported by the Richmond TimesDispa­tch and ProPublica, she made a Dominion Energy-backed change in the bill before it passed that set the acceptable price tag of a planned offshore wind farm.

The alteration benefited the utility because it pegged the price to 2019 data at a time when energy costs are dropping. Had 2020 numbers been used, the amount Dominion could recover from ratepayers would have been an estimated $2.5 billion less.

Dominion, the state’s largest electric utility, plans to ask the State Corporatio­n Commission to recover costs of the estimated $7.8 billion wind farm from ratepayers.

Navarro said earlier this year that she believed the change in the bill was discussed and agreed to by its various stakeholde­rs, but five of the key environmen­tal and trade associatio­n stakeholde­rs said they did not ask for the change.

In addition to deciding whether to confirm Navarro’s appointmen­t, the General Assembly will also need to confirm the governor’s June appointmen­t of Jehmal Hudson to the commission. The other commission­er is Judith Williams Jagdmann, who was first elected in 2006 and is now in her third sixyear term. The new legislativ­e session begins Jan. 13.

In July, President Donald Trump announced his intent to appoint Christie to the federal regulatory panel. Christie has served as an SCC commission­er in Virginia since 2004.

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