The Public Utility Commission of Texas will soon lose its chairman.

Donna Nelson, who has sat on the three-member commission since 2008 and chaired it since 2011, announced her retirement Thursday at an open meeting. She said May 15 will be her final day on the commission, which oversees electric, telecommunication and water and sewer utilities across Texas. 

“You have left a distinguished and wonderful mark on this state with your service,” Commissioner Brandy Marty Marquez told Nelson on Thursday.

“I’m not dead yet,” Nelson joked.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Former Gov. Rick Perry first appointed Nelson to the commission after she served as his adviser on energy and other utility issues. 

Over her tenure at the PUC, Texas saw the build-out of a $7 billion power line project to accommodate the state’s booming wind sector, and she at times questioned whether the wind energy sector was paying its fair share — she called for the end of federal wind tax credits, saying they distorted the power market.

More recently, she called for Texas to crack down on deceptive retail electric providers, and her commission has wrangled with giant power companies that have sought — thus far unsuccessfully — to buy Oncor, the state’s largest electric transmission utility.

A South Dakota native, Nelson grew interested in legal and regulatory issues early, after working in Washington in the late 1970s for one of her home state's senators, Larry Pressler, before a cousin in Houston persuaded her to move to Texas, where she attended law school at Texas Tech University.

Read more of our related coverage:

  • Texas Republicans and fossil fuel champions celebrated an executive order signed by President Trump aimed at curtailing Obama-era climate regulations, calling it a win for utility customers and the state economy.
  • Texas GOP chairman Tom Mechler, an Amarillo oilman, insists that he wasn't lobbying when he asked the state to intervene in his clients' dispute with a pipeline giant.

Get The Brief

And stay two steps ahead of the Texas Legislature.