CPUC Commissioner Liane Randolph Named State Air Chief

By Published On: December 9, 2020

In a surprise move, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed utility regulator Liane Randolph to head the California Air Resources Board. She will replace Mary Nichols in January.

“I am beyond excited and honored to join the path-breaking team at CARB, which has been at the forefront of environmental progress for decades,” Randolph said. She committed to work to further reduce air and climate pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Randolph has a broad range of governmental experience. Before her appointment to the California Public Utilities Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown, she had served as general counsel at the Natural Resources Agency for four years. She also headed the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Like other appointees, she had little experience in utility regulation when she was named to the CPUC in 2015. She quickly became proficient in numerous subjects.

She has been the lead commissioner on utility general rate cases, the Integrated Resource Plan proceeding and investigations into the future of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. Last week, the CPUC unanimously approved her proposal to adopt Pacific Gas & Electric’s 2020-22 general rate case settlement. It allows the utility to increase its 2020 revenue by $9.1 billion, raising average rates by $125 a year. In November, the Commission approved maintaining the level of pressurized natural gas stored at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon gas storage field at the current 34 billion cubic feet, resisting the utility’s pressure to double it to 68.6 Bcf. Many in the surrounding communities affected by the massive methane leak five years ago, protested continuing storage field operations.

Her appointment as ARB Chair, which requires Senate confirmation, was made one day before Nichols’ final meeting on Dec. 10. 

On Thursday, the Air Board was allotted a total three minutes to sing Nichols’ praises, staying within the time limits routinely imposed on members of the public. The board members briefly touted Nichols steady leadership to put California at the forefront of climate protection. Board member Dan Sperling said he was “in awe of the queen of the green.”

Newsom chimed in by video cast, adding, “The best is yet to come.” Nichols, who announced her retirement from the board months ago, is favored to become U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator in the Biden Administration.

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