Wolf withdraws nomination to utility regulator after lawmakers threaten no vote

  • Rachel McDevitt

Gov. Tom Wolf is recalling his nomination to the state’s utility regulator after GOP senators promised to block his candidates.

Wolf nominated Hayley Book to the Public Utility Commission’s board, which has been short a member for over a year.

Book, a Department of Environmental Protection climate adviser, is leading the administration’s effort to have the state join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Republicans oppose RGGI because they say it will hurt the state’s coal industry and they don’t like that the Wolf Administration is joining without legislative approval.

Last month, they wrote to Wolf saying they would reject any nominee to the PUC unless he drops the RGGI effort. Wolf said he will continue to move forward with the effort.

The PUC would have no role in administering RGGI, but GOP lawmakers said it has “significant oversight” of energy regulation.

Rather than let Book get voted down, the governor withdrew her nomination. A spokeswoman said, “The Senate made it clear that they would not confirm her.”

Asked to explain, a Senate GOP spokesman said only, “The Governor recalled Hayley Book.”

The Senate voted Wednesday to honor the recall.

That leaves the PUC with four members, who have deadlocked on several decisions in the last year. Another commissioner’s term expired in April; David Sweet can serve for an additional six months, but will have to vacate the board this fall unless re-nominated and confirmed.

A PUC spokesman says all operations are continuing.

Wolf’s office declined to comment on whether he’ll nominate someone else.

The PUC provides economic, safety, and quality of service oversight for nearly 7,000 entities that deliver electricity, natural gas, and water to people’s homes and that operate pipelines and railroads.

Environmental and consumer protection groups say a short-staffed commission could make for poor policy outcomes for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

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