PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has nominated his chief legal counsel, Carlisle Tuggey McLean, to serve on the three-member Maine Public Utilities Commission, which regulates telephone, electric, gas and water utility companies and districts in the state.
She is one of two appointees the governor will nominate to the powerful commission this year.
The governor also named Commissioner Mark Vannoy as the PUC’s chairman, taking the role over from Tom Welch, who retired early from his second term on the commission at the end of 2014.
McLean has been a member of the governor’s staff since 2011, coming off a six-year tenure at the Portland law firm Preti Flaherty, where she focused on environmental and land-use law, including permitting and development of energy projects.
McLean told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday that she’s excited about tackling some of the questions related to the region’s energy challenges, which include whether and how to increase natural gas capacity in the state and how to diversify the makeup of the region’s power generation.
“I think days like today put an exclamation point on the problem,” McLean said Thursday, as temperatures rose to afternoon highs in the single digits statewide. “As a regulator, I appreciate that the PUC has a very tangible impact on Maine citizens, given that it has an impact on their monthly bills.”
In the governor’s office, she has served as general counsel but also as an adviser on natural resource policy since the governor’s early effort — LD1 — to reform the state’s environmental regulations.
She said that her experience working on legislation and policy over the past six years gives her a strong grounding in the intent of the Legislature’s energy policy, which it is regularly the PUC’s job to interpret.
Patrick Woodcock, director of the governor’s energy office, said McLean’s legal background was part of the reason for her nomination.
“If you look at really who has made effective commissioners in the past, it’s people who have the intelligence and ability to dissect very complex matters and that’s what the governor had seen in [McLean],” Woodcock said.
McLean graduated in 2000 from Bates College in Lewiston with a degree in environmental studies and in 2005 graduated from the Pace University School of Law, also earning a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
If confirmed by the Senate, McLean would join commissioners Vannoy and David Littell, whose term expires in March. She will fill in the seat left by past chairman Tom Welch, for the term expiring in 2017.
Welch was also the PUC’s liaison to a regional energy group, along with Woodcock, called the New England States Commission on Electricity, through which the New England governors have attempted to craft recommendations to regional and federal policymakers for improving the region’s electric grid reliability and reducing prices.
Woodcock will serve as the state’s primary contact to that group.
Littell, appointed by LePage’s Democratic predecessor John Baldacci, could be reappointed but has in the past had fights with LePage over recusals in cases coming before the commission. Vannoy’s term expires in 2019.
The nomination comes just one day after LePage’s inauguration, when he reiterated that reducing energy costs in the state is a high priority.
Efforts to do so could include changes to the state’s renewable energy goals, expanding natural gas infrastructure and efforts to open the state up to more hydropower from Quebec.