Marybel Batjer, outgoing California Public Utilities Commission president, is being replaced Dec. 31 by Alice Reynolds, who is the Senior Advisor to the Governor for Energy. She was rumored to be the pick for months.
“Alice has been indispensable in our work to move California toward a cleaner, affordable and reliable energy future, navigate the bankruptcy of the state’s largest investor-owned utility and accelerate the state’s progress toward meeting our clean energy goals, among other critical issues,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said as he announced the appointment on Monday.
Three days after Newsom was sworn in, Pacific Gas & Electric declared bankruptcy. Reynolds was quickly immersed in the proceeding, which included PG&E threatening to not honor its renewable contracts.
“She is very smart and very analytical, and holds her cards close to her chest,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producers executive director.
“She is well aware of what she is walking into,” he added.
Batjer led the agency as utility-sparked wildfires caused massive damage, and investor-owned utility rates and risk-related outages soared. Other controversies hounded her, including the contentious firing in August 2020 of CPUC Executive Director Alice Stebbins, a 30-year government employee, over charges of nepotism. Stebbins sued in December, asserting the actual reason she was forced out was for blowing the whistle on the commission for failing to collect $200 million from water, communication, and energy utilities.
Batjer is retiring on Dec. 30, a year before the expiration of her term. She announced her departure to staff in a Sept. 28 email. Newsom appointed her Commission president in July 2019 to serve until the beginning of 2027.
Former CPUC Mike Florio wishes Reynolds “better luck with wildfires and shortages— among other challenges.”
Reynolds is a Democrat, and the Senate must confirm her appointment within one year.