Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday he has named replacements for all four vacant commissioner spots at the Comisión Nacional de Energía (CRE), or national energy commission.
Four of the CRE’s seven commissioners have resigned since López Obrador took office last December. The most recent resignation was that of former Commissioner Montserrat Ramiro, who stepped down in late January.
This left the commission, which oversees permitting and regulations in the electricity and midstream hydrocarbons segments, without quorum to convene sessions.
López Obrador’s announcement follows the senate’s rejection on Wednesday, for the second time, of a shortlist of 12 candidates submitted by the president to fill the four vacant posts.
Senators rejected the first shortlist on March 21 amid concerns about the candidates’ suitability for the commission. Videos of hearings to test the candidates’ knowledge of the energy sector circulated widely on social media, and according to critics, demonstrated the aspiring commissioners’ unpreparedness for the job.
Lourdes Melgar, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Energy, tweeted on March 21 that the rejection was “great news for the energy sector,” adding that the CRE requires experts with “technically solid profiles” in issues of “great complexity.”
Days later, however, López Obrador submitted a revised shortlist including 11 of the original 12 candidates. Again, all 12 failed to obtain the two-thirds majority of favorable votes needed from legislators.
Under Mexico’s coordinated energy regulators law, if the senate rejects two shortlists submitted by the president, the president may then appoint the new commissioners directly.
IHS Markit’s Adrian Calceano, natural gas liquids lead for Latin America and the Caribbean, said on Twitter López Obrador’s re-submission of all but one name for the positions went “against the spirit” of the law.
Energy consultant Gonzalo Monroy chimed in, calling the second shortlist a “mockery,” citing the candidates’ “incompetence” and “lack of knowledge.”
The Consejo Mexicano de la Energía (Comener), or Mexican Energy Council, on Thursday said the picks for the vacant commissioner spots “represent a risk not only for the energy sector but for the goal of economic growth defined by the president.”
The Comener added that the selections “lack sufficient experience” and will therefore “diminish the credibility” of the CRE’s rulings and “weaken investment incentives in the energy sector.”
The four candidates chosen in the end by López Obrador were people who, despite not receiving a two-thirds majority, received the most favorable votes from senators.
The four candidates are Luis Linares Zapata, Norma Leticia Campos, José Alberto Celestino Isaac, and Guadalupe Escalante.
According to reports, Linares Zapata holds a masters degree in applied economics from the University of Pennsylvania and is the co-founder of Mexican newspaper La Jornada. Campos Aragón holds a doctorate in social sciences from the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico.
Celestino Isaac and Escalante Benítez, meanwhile, are both chemical engineers and veterans of national oil company Petróleos Mexicanos.