Northam to appoint former administration official to State Corporation Commission in January

The State Corporation Commission
The State Corporation Commission regulates Virginia electric utilities. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Ralph Northam announced he intends to appoint former Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Angela Navarro to fill the State Corporation Commission seat that will be vacated by Judge Mark Christie at the beginning of 2021. 

The pick was widely expected in Richmond, where Navarro has worked in both the energy and environment spheres. Prior to working at the Secretariat of Commerce and Trade, Navarro served as deputy secretary of natural resources under both Northam and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and was an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. During the 2020 session, she was closely involved in negotiations over the landmark Virginia Clean Economy Act, which charts a course for Virginia’s electric grid to become carbon-free by 2050. 

Northam provided only limited comments on the appointment at a press conference Wednesday on the COVID-19 pandemic, praising Navarro as “very experienced in energy policies.” 

Under Virginia law, the governor has the authority to fill any vacant seat on the SCC for a term that expires 30 days after the start of the next legislative session. The General Assembly must then nominate and confirm a candidate.

Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature, are expected to back Northam’s pick. They are also expected to confirm Jehmal Hudson to his current seat on the commission. Senate Republicans blocked Hudson’s confirmation on procedural grounds on the last day of the 2020 regular session, leading to Northam appointing him in his executive capacity in June. 

Several energy groups swiftly praised Navarro’s appointment. Harry Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, called her “an exemplary candidate” who “has sought to be a fair and honest public servant.” 

Chelsea Harnish, executive director of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, said in a statement that while the council “typically doesn’t weigh in on commissioner appointments … given Ms. Navarro’s extensive history in promoting effective energy efficiency policy in the Commonwealth, we anticipate her bringing that same frame of mind to this new role.” 

Christie is departing the SCC to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to which he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Monday. According to SCC spokesperson Ken Schrad, he will continue to serve on the commission through the end of the year, and is expected to take the oath of office to join FERC on Jan. 4.