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Governor fills New Mexico regulation commission vacancy

Governor Susana Martinez yesterday appointed Santa Fe energy consultant Doug Howe to fill the vacancy on the state’s Public Regulation Commission.

Replacing the indicted Jerome Block Jr. on the embattled commission, Howe steps into the position having worked as vice president for regulatory policy at General Public Utilities Service Corp., a multinational utility company, and as a consultant to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years,” said Howe. “I’m well trained for this. My qualifications will allow me to come up to speed very quickly.”

In announcing the appointment, Martinez called Howe “an accomplished professional who is well-versed in energy, environmental, and regulatory issues. . . . Dr. Howe has demonstrated the knowledge and experience required to serve capably on behalf of the people of New Mexico. I am confident that he is the right pick.”

As one of 88 individuals who applied for Block’s $90,000 a year seat, representing the commission’s District 3 and including Santa Fe and much of Northern New Mexico, Howe is a declared independent and has lived in Santa Fe full-time since 2006, when he permanently relocated from New York City after having bought a home in the area in 1999. “Aside from not having been eligible even to run four years ago [state law requires at least five years of residency in order to run for public office], I probably would not have even considered it,” said Howe. “It was not something that was on my radar.”

After all of the PRC’s recent imbroglios, however — ranging from Eric Serna leaving the commission in 2006 to Block’s recently admitting to fraudulent use of a state-issued gasoline card, embezzlement, identity theft, and other charges (and his later arrest for having failed a court-ordered drug test) — Howe figured that “the citizens of New Mexico deserve better.”

Howe also said it’s time for the PRC to consider the recommendations of Think New Mexico. “I think their calls for certain qualifications and a possible tearing off of the commission to other agencies is something to consider,” said Howe, who’ll be joining two Democrats and two Republicans.

Never having served in a public office before, Howe was understandably mum on whether he’ll run for the office when his term is up in 13 months. “My working style is collaborative,” he said. “And my tendency is to seek consensus. Besides, I’m going to be the new kid on the block. And even though I understand a lot about this industry, I’m looking forward to working with and learning from people like Commissioner Pat Lyons.”

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