Senate OKs LePage nominee to Public Utilities Commission

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - All three members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission will be Gov. Paul LePage appointees after the Maine Senate confirmed Bruce Williamson's nomination to the board on Tuesday.

The Republican-led Senate voted 25-10 in favor of Williamson's nomination to the panel, which regulates utilities and shapes energy policy in the state. Williamson will replace David Littell, who was appointed to the commission by former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

Williamson is a senior economist at the Institute for Nuclear Security at the University of Tennessee's Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. He has described himself as "agnostic" when it comes to the source of energy - whether it's wind, solar, natural gas, oil - as long as it makes economic sense.

Republican Sen. David Woodsome, co-chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, said Williamson faced a "grilling" during his confirmation hearing and performed well. The committee endorsed his nomination with an 11-2 vote last week.

"I am very satisfied with the nominee's qualifications, ability, integrity and ethical standards," Woodsome said.

Williamson said in an email that he was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday.

Democrats on the energy committee initially delayed a vote on Williamson's nomination because they said they needed more time amid what they've called a "crisis of confidence" with the PUC. Some Democrats have questioned whether LePage is inappropriately influencing the commission - a charge that LePage has strongly rejected.

The delay of Williamson's vote prompted LePage to withdraw 21 nominees to state boards and advisory councils. His spokeswoman told the Portland Press Herald that he is "disappointed that Democrats chose to play political games" with Williamson's nomination.

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