A gas industry executive nominated by Gov. Wes Moore to serve on the Maryland Public Service Commission withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday after environmentalists questioned his commitment to fighting climate change and protecting ratepayers’ interests while regulating gas and electric utilities.

Juan Alvarado, the senior director of energy analysis at the American Gas Association — the biggest lobbying group representing the gas industry — said in a statement that he was withdrawing his candidacy for “personal reasons.” But his nomination to the commission by Moore on Feb. 17 angered advocates, given the governor’s pledges to shift the state from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy.

In a statement released by Moore’s office, Alvarado said, “I firmly believe in Governor Moore’s leadership and vision, and know he will continue moving Maryland towards meeting its vital climate goals.”

Alvarado previously worked at the Public Service Commission in various roles for more than a decade, directing the agency’s economic research as well as its telecommunications, gas and water division. Since 2020, he has worked at the American Gas Association and is currently its senior director for energy analysis.

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Moore, a Democrat, said he respected Alvarado’s decision to withdraw from the confirmation process. “Juan shares our conviction that addressing climate change is the defining challenge of our time, and his deep understanding of the Public Service Commission was knowledge that would have served Maryland well,” he said in a statement.

“Our nominees to the Public Service Commission will be aligned with our administration’s goals,” the governor added. “We will work in partnership throughout this confirmation process to move Maryland forward.” A spokesperson for Moore said Alvarado’s replacement would be announced in the “near future.”

The PSC’s five commissioners, appointed by the governor, serve staggered terms and must be approved by the Maryland Senate.

After taking office, Moore had withdrawn 48 of the recess appointments submitted last July by his Republican predecessor, Larry Hogan, clearing the way for three new PSC appointees. In announcing that he had selected Alvarado, the governor also nominated Frederick Hoover, currently with the state watchdog agency known as the Office of the People’s Counsel, to head the commission. The third nomination has yet to be submitted by Moore’s office.

Alvarado’s appointment stirred consternation among environmentalists, who had assumed that Moore’s picks would be sympathetic to goals set in the state’s new climate law. In legislation approved last spring, Maryland has set a target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2031 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2045.

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The news of Alvarado’s withdrawal drew cautious expressions of support from environmental groups.

Kim Coble, executive director of the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters, said her group was focusing on ensuring that “we get strong appointments to that PSC so it can advance the clean energy targets.” She said she was confident the administration would nominate strong candidates going forward.

Josh Tulkin, director of the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter, said his group looked forward to working with Moore and the governor’s secretary of appointments, Tisha Edwards, “to ensure the PSC is ready to advance the governor’s bold climate agenda.” Tulkin had argued earlier that Alvarado was the wrong candidate for the job.

This story is published in partnership with Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. Sign up for the ICN newsletter here.

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