After winning by the barest of margins in an election that was disputed for weeks, Washington state’s new Gov. Christine Gregoire earlier this month shook up the three-member state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) by appointing two new commissioners, including a new chairperson, to six-year terms. The move pushes the current UTC chairperson, Marilyn Showalter, out of the job she has held for the past four years.

Gov. Gregoire named Mark Sidran, a 30-year legal veteran who for 12 years served as Seattle’s city attorney, to the UTC chairperson’s position, and Philip Jones, an international trade and energy policy public affairs consultant, to the other seat on the commission, previously held by Richard Hempsted who announced his retirement earlier this month.

Sidran said in a news announcement from the UTC that it is “vital that we protect our consumers and our economy against predatory energy market manipulations like Enron’s or unfair and unreasonable rate hikes at the Bonneville Power Administration.” Sidran and Jones will need to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Showalter, served on the UTC since 1999, but had never been confirmed by the state Senate. She was appointed to fill out the term of a previous commissioner and then was re-appointed by the previous governor two years ago, a UTC spokesperson said. In addition to stepping down in the state, Showalter has had to abruptly resign as chairperson of the National Associations of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which just completed its annual winter meetings in Washington, DC, last week.

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