Maryland PSC appointee with ties to fossil fuels withdraws

February 28, 2023 GMT

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Wes Moore’s nominee to the Maryland Public Service Commission withdrew from consideration on Tuesday, after environmentalists criticized the appointment of someone who was an official in the fossil fuel industry.

Juan Alvarado, senior director of energy analysis at the American Gas Association, announced his withdrawal in a statement released by the governor’s office. Before working at the association, Alvarado had served as a staff member at the PSC for 12 years.

“After considerable reflection, I have decided to withdraw my nomination for personal reasons,” 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. I stand ready to help him however I can going forward.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that leading environmental groups in Maryland had raised serious concerns about elevating a fossil fuel industry official to a position on a statewide panel of significance on climate-related issues. The PSC, which has five members, regulates utilities and energy suppliers.

The American Gas Association is the gas industry’s biggest lobbying firm and actively opposed a federal proposal last year to consider how natural gas projects affect climate change and environmental justice. Environmentalists feared that Alvarado would slow-walk Maryland’s own plans to get more homes and businesses to switch from gas to electricity — steps that scientists say are crucial to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global warming.

Moore said he understood it was a difficult decision for Alvarado, but respected his decision to withdraw from the confirmation process. The governor, a Democrat, also stated his commitment to fight climate change.

“As we look ahead, my administration is fully committed to achieving Maryland’s bold and necessary climate, energy, and resilience goals,” Moore said. “Our nominees to the Public Service Commission will be aligned with our administration’s goals, and we will work in partnership throughout this confirmation process to move Maryland forward.”

Maryland approved an ambitious law last year to address climate change. The law calls for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 60% below 2006 levels by 2031 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2045.