Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday promoted Arthur D’Andrea to chair the state’s utility regulator, replacing the Public Utility Commission leader who resigned earlier this week following widespread power outages in February.
The governor appoints commissioners to lead the PUC, which oversees the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. D’Andrea, appointed by Abbott in 2017 to the three-member board that runs the Public Utility Commission, is a lawyer who previously worked at the Texas attorney general's office and for a private law firm.
D'Andrea replaces DeAnn Walker, who resigned as chair of the PUC earlier this week after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state lawmakers called for her to resign following the blackouts. D’andrea earned a salary of $201,000 from the state as of Feb. 1, the same salary as Walker’s was. It is unclear whether D'Andrea will receive a pay raise.
While Abbott has called on lawmakers to reform ERCOT, the PUC has come under fire for not sounding alarms ahead of the winter storm that resulted in the deaths of dozens of Texans and left millions without power for days in subfreezing temperatures. The agency has also been criticized for failing to prepare the state’s electricity infrastructure for the possibility of winter weather, especially after state leaders over the last decade repeatedly ignored recommendations to protect the power grid.
During the PUC’s first public meeting on Wednesday since Walker resigned earlier in the week, D’Andrea, who at the time had not yet been announced as Walker’s replacement, began the proceedings by praising Walker.
“Before I get started, I want to take a minute to acknowledge DeAnn Walker’s dedicated and tireless service to this agency,” D’Andrea said. “She was the hardest working, the most detail oriented person I’ve ever met and I’m really going to miss having her around.”
D’Andrea’s promotion leaves one open commissioner seat. Abbott can now choose who he’d like to join D’Andrea and Commissioner Shelly Botkin, who Abbott appointed to the PUC in 2018.