Gov. Inslee Fills Key Energy and Natural Resource Positions With A Mix of Insiders and Experienced Government Hands

February 12, 2013

With this week's announcement that David W. Danner has been appointed the new Chairman of the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission ("UTC"), Washington Governor Jay Inslee has completed the slate of key positions influencing energy and natural resources policy in the state. The key appointments are a mixture of long-time Inslee confidants and individuals with long experience in state government.

Mr. Danner is typical of Inslee appointees who have worked for many years in Washington state government. Mr. Danner has served since 2005 as the Executive Director of the UTC. Prior to that, he served as Gov. Gary Locke's policy advisor on energy and environmental issues, and served on the State's Pollution Control Hearings Board and Shoreline Hearings Board. Mr. Danner will fill the seat recently vacated by Commissioner Patrick Oshie. He will replace Jeff Goltz as UTC Chair, although Commissioner Goltz will continue to serve on the UTC along with Commissioner Phil Jones.

Other key appointments include:

Department of Ecology: Late last week, Gov. Inslee appointed Maia D. Bellon as Director of the Department of Ecology. Since 2010, Ms. Bellon has headed Ecology's Water Resources Program and, prior to that, worked as an attorney in the Water Section of the Washington Attorney General's Office. Ecology administers water rights in Washington, as well as housing the state's programs for control of air pollution, water pollution, hazardous substances, and related environmental programs.

Department of Commerce: Brian Bonlender is Gov. Inslee's choice for Director of the Department of Commerce. Mr. Bonlender worked his way up in Gov. Inslee's Congressional office, starting as an intern when Gov. Inslee represented the Yakima area in Congress, and winding up as the Chief of Staff of Inslee's Congressional office when he represented the west-side First District. The Department of Commerce is something of a bureaucratic grab-bag, housing programs ranging from the Developmental Disabilities Council to export promotion. Several important energy programs operate within Commerce, including the State Energy Office, and several important energy conservation and low-income energy assistance programs. In addition, Commerce oversees I-937 compliance for Washington's PUDs and municipal utilities. Because of the high priority Gov. Inslee has placed on promoting clean tech and renewable energy, it is likely that Commerce will play a key role in energy, technology, and natural resource issues in the new administration.

Executive Policy Advisor: Keith Phillips is the lone holdover from Gov. Gregoire's administration in key energy and natural resource policy positions. Mr. Phillips will serve as Gov. Inslee's advisor on energy and environmental issues, the same role he played in the Gregoire administration.

[Note: Washington's Department of Natural Resources also plays a significant role in environmental and natural resource policy issues, but DNR is headed by an elected Commissioner of Public Lands rather than by a gubernatorial appointee. The current Commissioner, Peter J. Goldmark, was elected to a second term in November.]

If you have any questions about any of the key appointments discussed in this post, please contact a member of GTH's Energy, Telecommunications, and Utilities practice group or Environment & Natural Resources practice group. These practice groups are consistently recognized as among the best, both nationally and in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, GTH-Government Affairs offers comprehensive government relations services, including advocacy, research, and strategic advice in both Olympia and Washington, D.C.