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SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez’s appointment of Santa Fe energy consultant Douglas Howe to New Mexico’s utility regulator came under fire Tuesday from a liberal group because he once worked on a project for Libya’s government-owned electric company.
Howe dismissed the criticisms by Progress New Mexico and a spokesman for Martinez called it a “smear attack.”
The Republican governor named Howe on Monday to fill a vacancy on the Public Regulation Commission, which regulates utilities, telecommunications and insurance rates in the state. Howe is a political independent, unaffiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. He replaces Democrat Jerome Block Jr., who resigned after pleading guilty to fraudulent use of a state-issued gasoline credit card and other felonies.
Howe managed a project for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a global consulting and research company, in 2005-2007 that tried to improve operations of the General Electricity Company of Libya, the government-owned electric utility. Progress New Mexico, which is affiliated with the left-leaning advocacy group Progress Now, criticized Howe as a former Gadhafi government adviser. “If Howe was the best fit to design a system to serve Moammar Gadhafi, why in the world would Susana Martinez allow him to regulate New Mexico?”