Gov. Janet Mills is nominating William Harwood, an attorney with broad experience working on utility issues, as the state’s next public advocate, the governor’s office said in a news release Wednesday.

William Harwood

If confirmed, Harwood, who currently serves as the senior adviser for regulatory affairs in the governor’s energy office, would represent Maine utility consumers in matters pending before the state Public Utilities Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

“When it comes to utilities in Maine, few people are more experienced or knowledgeable than Bill Harwood – and no one is better positioned than Bill to stand up for Maine people and hold our utilities accountable to them,” Mills said in a written statement. “Bill’s deep expertise, built over his decades long career, will serve Maine well and will advance our efforts to hold our utilities accountable and deliver reliable service for Maine people.”

As former senior counsel at the Portland-based law firm Verrill Dana, Harwood has represented a wide range of interests over his 40-year career, including consumers, public utilities, renewable energy companies, technology companies, paper mills, and colleges and universities. He has also helped landowners, from blueberry growers to nursing homes, in negotiations with renewable energy developers regarding the siting and benefits of new solar projects.

Harwood, who served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law, also has experience with water utilities, representing consumers in disputes involving charges, supplies and access.

“I am honored to be nominated as Maine’s Public Advocate. If confirmed, I will work hard every day to defend the interests of Maine people,” Harwood said in a written statement. “The bottom-line is that Maine ratepayers deserve reliable service at just and reasonable rates, and I will fight every day to make sure that’s what they are getting.”

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The nomination was welcomed by the Acadia Center, a group advocating for a bold response to climate change in the Northeast. Jeff Marks, the group’s Maine director and senior policy advocate, noted Harwood’s experience, skills and temperament.

“The trust he’s earned during his more than four decades of legal and regulatory work will serve him well, especially as the public grows more weary of high-profile controversies in Maine’s utility sector,” Marks said. “We hope Bill will use his leverage to elevate equity concerns in environmental justice, frontline, and other vulnerable communities that are underserved or overburdened by current energy policies, programs and systems due to geography, race, income or other socioeconomic factors.”

Harwood’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, as well as the state Senate. It’s unclear when those proceedings would take place, although a confirmation hearing is expected before Jan. 15.

If confirmed, Harwood would replace former Public Advocate Barry Hobbins, who retired from the position in June 2021. Andrew Landry, deputy public advocate, has served as acting public advocate in the interim.

Harwood, a graduate of Harvard University and Fordham University, lives in Yarmouth with his wife, Ellen, and has five grown children.

A Mills spokesperson said Harwood, if confirmed, would earn $93,400 to $140,000 a year.


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