Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed state administrative law judge Katie Anderson as the next chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
Anderson, who currently serves on the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, takes over for Ted Thomas on Oct. 2. She'll serve the remainder of his term, which expires Jan. 14, 2027.
Thomas is stepping down after eight years as the state's top utility regulator for a job in the private sector. He told Arkansas Business this month that years of struggling with utilities over renewable power adoption had worn him down, though he remained a fiery supporter of the industry to the end. In a blistering recusal notice this month, he accused one of the state's electric cooperatives of "wielding the billy club of the monopolist” in preventing rooftop solar from connecting to its grid, and called the cooperative's legal tactics "garbage."
Thomas' successor previously served as a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin L. Wiedemann, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Audrey R. Evans and Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Karen R. Baker. From 2012 - 2015, she held a leadership role on Walmart's state and local policy team.
In addition to her role on the Workers' Compensation Commission, Anderson is a vice president of I.F. Anderson Farms Inc. of Lonoke, a fourth-generation, family-owned bait fish farm in operation since 1949.
“Katie has proven to be a fair arbiter of important issues throughout her career,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “I'm confident she will bring a fair and balanced approach to matters before the Public Service Commission. She has served the state well as an Administrative Law Judge and her judicial temperament and sense of fairness make her a good fit in the Public Service Commission.”
Anderson is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Lauren Waldrip, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, said in a letter to members Thursday that the organization appreciates the role Anderson will play in "ensuring long-term, stable regulations to enable the continued adoption of advanced energy while protecting the material investment in our industry to date."
Waldrip also commended the governor for a "timely transition" of PSC leadership that will help ensure progress on open dockets at the commission.
On one of those dockets is a dispute with Entergy Corp. over allegedly inflated costs of the company's Grand Gulf nuclear power plant in Mississippi. The commission turned down a "low-ball" $142 million settlement offer from Entergy in August.
On another docket, there's an investigation into some cooperatives' unauthorized net-metering practices, such as charging unauthorized application fees, requiring excess insurance coverage and imposing unobtainable inspection requirements.
“I am truly honored to accept this appointment," Anderson said in a statement, "and I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. In this new capacity, I will continue to serve the people of Arkansas with the utmost level of integrity and professionalism.”