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Two former chair of the Colorado PUC say who is running the show behind the scenes can matter greatly in this giant pivot of energy systems


Rebecca White has been appointed as division director of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. She replaces Doug Dean, who retired early in the winter. He had been at the post since 2005.

Several former PUC commissioners welcomed her appointment, as they saw Dean as an individual with little enthusiasm for the energy transition underway in Colorado. In this, the PUC plays a vital role, particularly because of detailed instructions delivered by laws passed by the General Assembly beginning in 2019.

“The amount of detail that has come over from the legislature about what is supposed to happen has definitely increased a lot,” says Ron Lehr, a PUC commissioner for 8 years in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In her role as division director, White will be responsible for operations of the PUC, which has 122 employees. Previously she had been with the Colorado Department of Transportation beginning in 2014.

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Lehr says that Dean, as director, showed “no evidence of being fully engaged in the (energy) transition.” That at times was evident in the staff performance, he says.

“There were some good people who came and went during his time,” says Lehr, but he believes those who have excelled did so despite Dean, not because of his leadership. “If we had somebody who was fully engaged in the strategy for the transition of change in the energy sector, it would be much better,” he said.

Jeff Ackerman, chair of the PUC for four years, had a similar assessment. And, having become familiar with White, he is enthusiastic she will provide the leadership that PUC needs.

“I think she will be great,” he said of White. “The PUC director is the person who will set the direction for the role of advocacy and trial staff in future proceedings in how to truly pursue the public interest.”

In some past years, said Ackermann, staff members were “always a little bit restrained and weren’t sure how to navigate their statutory authority. Now, with much more clear statutory authority in the last few years and new leadership, you will see trial staff being much more central in proceedings.”

White has no experience directly in the energy sector. Ackerman and Lehr say that should not be a problem as hiring the right people is more important. In that, her experience at C-DOT may help because already she understands the state personnel system.

At C-DOT from 2019 through February 2023, she was responsible for planning, freight, asset management, research, environmental programs and more. Prior to that, she held two other positions at C-DOT beginning in 2014 as director of external programs and outreach and also director of all communications and governmental affairs for C-DOT’s efforts to solve the I-70 congestion and safety issue in central Denver. In her LinkedIn page, she describes it as the “largest and most scrutinized project” in C-DOT history.

Before, that White had been the deputy director of an office in the Environmental Protection Agency that was charged with addressing the role of transportation in climate change. Representing that office in meetings with Congressional staffers, she defended the agency’s lifecycle analysis of renewable fuels.

White began her career in 2002 as a land-use planner at the Bureau of Land Management in Washington D.C.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in economics from the University of Oregon, from which she graduated summa cum laude. She has a master of public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin.

Allen Best
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