As the May 10 deadline for California Energy Commission chair Joe Desmond's Senate confirmation approaches, Democrats have yet to schedule a vote on extending his appointment. Recognizing that reality, the governor has moved on, indicated an aide. "Look for an announcement in the next week" on a new nominee, said Sabrina Lockhart, deputy press secretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Administration sources remained tightlipped about the candidates. However, Lockhart indicated that while the governor cannot keep Desmond as chair of the CEC, he could move the 41-year-old former energy industry executive to another position within his administration. Desmond has promoted a portfolio approach to the state's energy supply future - one that not only includes renewables but promotes construction of a "clean coal" power plant in Wyoming and a new transmission line to bring the electricity to California. The latter, apparently, turned out to be an Achilles' heel. "The reasons for the lack of interest are so varied," said a key Senate aide of lawmakers' inaction on Desmond's confirmation. "Some are related to Joe personally and some related to some of the positions he advocated and to positions prevailing on energy in the administration in general." Legislators, environmentalists, consumers, and fellow energy officials questioned many of Desmond's positions. Many expressed concern that he did not focus on how to lower energy prices in a state where electricity, natural gas, and gasoline cost more than almost anyplace else in the nation. Yet others said he took crucial steps to increase the state's energy supply and simply ran out of time for further efforts. Schwarzenegger's aide said that Desmond's appointment is not a partisan issue. To the contrary, he noted that the Senate has shown "consideration and latitude" for the governor on appointments, confirming 99 out of 100 of Schwarzenegger's nominees. The governor nominated Desmond earlier this year to chair the commission for five years. The move extended Desmond's temporary appointment to fill the remaining term of former chair Bill Keese, which ended January 1. His reappointment by the governor allowed him to stay in the post until this month without a confirmation vote. "The governor needs somebody with the stature to speak for him and get things done on energy," said the Schwarzenegger staffer. He pointed out, for instance, that Desmond ignored Senate Democrats' request for the commission to address high natural gas prices (Circuit, Jan. 13, 2006). According to the Senate aide, however, "The administration is languishing regarding a strategy for securing a supply of natural gas for the state on a long-term basis at reasonable prices." Desmond's performance pleased some and irked others. "We think the Senate is making a real mistake," said Dominic DiMare, California Chamber of Commerce vice-president of government relations. "Joe has worked tirelessly and with a lot of energy to improve transmission and generation in California, and that has accrued to the benefit of all ratepayers." DiMare said that Desmond has been both probusiness and proconsumer and would have accomplished more but has run out of time. He urged Schwarzenegger to appoint somebody of similar caliber who would continue to focus on relieving transmission congestion and building new generating plants. "We've always had a very good relationship with Mr. Desmond," said Jerry Jordan, California Municipal Utility Association executive director, adding that he understood municipal utilities. At the same time, Jordan said the commission under Desmond was reluctant to examine how well the electricity industry's market structure was working, as requested by munis. He said public power agencies hope the next chair of the CEC will examine the electricity industry's market structure when updating the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report. Consumer groups criticized Desmond for not doing more to control energy prices. "He was entirely unsympathetic to the concerns of small customers," said Lenny Goldberg, The Utility Reform Network's lobbyist. "He was pushing an energy policy that would bring back deregulation." Goldberg said he thinks there is a chance that Schwarzenegger will appoint "somebody who cares about small consumers who are paying through the nose these days." Desmond's replacement will "have to walk a fine line," said John Galloway, Union of Concerned Scientists senior analyst. "The Energy Commission is struggling with a lot of issues," he said, from gaining more authority over transmission to promoting clean coal while trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Joe did a lot of outreach on clean coal," said Galloway. "I'd like to see someone spend as much time on outreach for clean energy throughout the West." Desmond declined to comment for this article. In his short tenure, he became embroiled in a losing battle to restructure energy policy in California by giving the Energy Commission authority over licensing transmission lines.