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Ige’s nominee to state Public Utilities Commission approved by Senate

Gov. David Ige’s nominee to the state agency that regulates Hawaii’s utilities was unanimously approved by a Senate committee today.

The Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health committee voted 7-0 to recommend the confirmation of James “Jay” Griffin to serve as the third regulator on the state Public Utilities Commission panel for a term set to expire June 30, 2022. The confirmation is now up to the full Senate.

“I’m going to be pleased to recommend to my colleagues that we advise and consent,” said Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, West Maui- South Maui). “I feel confident that you will be that independent and collaborative voice at the PUC.”

The three members of the PUC panel and their staff regulate the state’s major utilities from the energy sector to water carriers, such as Hawaiian Electric Co., Hawaii Gas and Young Brothers.

Before returning to the PUC, Griffin worked as a researcher and faculty member at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Griffin previously served as chief of policy and research at the PUC under former Chairwoman Mina Morita. While at the PUC, Griffin was responsible for overseeing staff and consultants in analyzing state energy policy decisions, such as the state’s long-term power supply plan.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for someone with my background,” Griffin said testifying at today’s hearing.

Griffin has been acting as an interim member of the state PUC panel since May, after the Senate rejected Ige’s original nominee, Tom Gorak, in April. Gorak’s appointment stirred controversy and a lawsuit from Morita, as it came days before the PUC’s ruling to deny Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion bid to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries.

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