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CA Governor Renominates Desmond to Head Energy Commission

Ignoring the prospect of a pitched political battle, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday renominated the chairman of the California Energy Commission (CEC), Joseph Desmond, for a full six-year term. Leaders in the Democratic-controlled state legislature already have indicated publicly they will block the confirmation of Desmond, a former Silicon Valley business leader who has served as Schwarzenegger's chief energy adviser.

Business leaders praised the move, while environmental group leaders said they would fight the nomination, according to a report out of Sacramento in Friday's Los Angeles Times. Democratic state lawmakers, including former Senate energy committee chair Debra Bowen and her committee colleague Joe Dunn, are strongly opposing Desmond because of what they perceive as his support for free-market solutions and a return to more retail competition in the form of direct-access power contracts.

In announcing the re-nomination, Schwarzenegger praised Desmond for forging a state energy policy that "helps business and bolsters development of renewables," the LA Times reported. "He has done such an extraordinary job that I wouldn't think of anyone else," the governor said.

Desmond has been credited by Schwarzenegger with convincing the California Public Utilities Commission to approve the 11-year, $3 billion state Solar Energy Initiative, which was passed earlier this month.

Environmentalists have been critical of Desmond because of the contention that he is supportive of conventional coal-fired electric generation -- at least from out-of-state sources. Desmond was a key state official in California last spring embracing the proposed four-state high-voltage Frontier transmission line from Wyoming that would bring coal-fired and wind-generated electricity from the Rockies to Utah, Nevada and California.

Observers quoted by the Times indicated that if the state legislature blocks Desmond's reappointment, the move would likely have little impact on Schwarzenegger's energy policy, which they characterize as a "hybrid" of traditionally regulated utilities and independent power generation companies.

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