For the first time this year, California had a full complement of governor-appointed energy regulators last week, and they didn't delay getting on the job, following the May 2 announcement from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, selecting his chief energy adviser as the new chairman of the California Energy Commission (CEC) and a former Reagan administration treasury official and international banker as the fifth member of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
The appointments require state Senate confirmation, but the designates began serving in their respective positions almost immediately. In California, governor-appointees requiring Senate confirmation can serve for up to a year without the lawmakers' taking action.
The announcements were not entirely free of criticism from utility consumers groups -- at least two of which questioned whether the new CPUC commissioner's recent business ties in the energy field render him too tainted by alleged, or perceived, conflicts of interest as happened with Schwarzenegger's earlier nominee, Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley multi-million entrepreneur who eventually gave up trying to satisfy state lawyers enough to be sworn in by the governor.
Joe Desmond, 41, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has been Schwarzenegger's principal energy adviser for the past year, became CEC chairman, the lead power plant permitting and energy planning agency for the state. Desmond has been the deputy secretary for energy in the Resources Department.
A former CEO of Infotility, Inc., an energy consulting and software development firm for four years (1997-2000) and before that, a lighting controls firm, Electronic Lighting, Inc. (1991-97), Desmond served as co-chair of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group's energy committee from 2001 to last year when the governor tapped him for a state position. He was also a board member in the National Association of Energy Service Companies.
Desmond replaces William Keese, a lawyer, who announced earlier this year he was stepping down after a long tenure heading the CEC through three different gubernatorial administrations.
For the CPUC spot that has remained vacant for the first four months Schwarzenegger named John Bohn, 67, a Harvard law school graduate with a varied private sector and federal government finance background, most recently as chairman of GlobalNet Venture Partners, a global financial advising and consulting firm. Bohn attended his first CPUC biweekly business meeting last Thursday only minutes after being sworn into his new six-year appointment.
In a brief public statement at the start of the meeting in San Francisco, Bohn said he would recuse himself on all energy issues on last Thursday's agenda, and "abstain on all matters other than the broadband report," noting that was what he called "an appropriate way to proceed." His nomination will require state Senate confirmation as will the appointment of Dian Grueneich, who was named in January to a spot on the commission.
Schwarzenegger called Bohn "uniquely qualified to understand how regulatory structures impact investment decisions," noting that his expertise will be particularly important to the state's current goal of "attracting necessary new investment in energy infrastructure and technology."
For seven years (1989-96) Bohn served as CEO of Moody's Investors Service, and earlier in the 80s, he was a special assistant to U.S. Treasury Secretary Donald Regan in the first four-year term of Ronald Reagan's administration, later serving as U.S. ambassador and executive director of the Asian Development Bank, and once was CEO of the Export Import Bank.
A lawyer with a Stanford University undergraduate degree, Bohn practiced law in California and internationally, before serving as an international banker at Wells Fargo Bank in California for 14 years (1967-81).
"In telecommunications, technology is fast outstripping the old regulatory structure," Schwarzenegger said. "More than ever, the CPUC needs people like John, who understand the power of technology to reduce prices and improve services, and I am confident he will be an invaluable addition to the commission."
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