Northam will appoint former deputy commerce secretary for SCC vacancy
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.