An energy watchdog group has launched an online petition urging the Colorado Senate to reject Gov. John Hickenlooper's nomination of former state Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Mead, for a seat on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

In early December, the governor named Vaad to a three-year term on the regulatory commission that begins Tuesday, Jan. 7. The Senate must confirm the numination, although Vaad can begin serving before that vote. Hickenlooper picked Vaad to replace James Tarpey, who announced in November that he would resign his PUC post effective Monday, Jan. 6.

According to Colorado statutes, no more than two members of the three-member PUC may be from one political party. Current members Pam Patton and Joshua Epel, the chairman, are Democrats.

Citing Vaad's ties to a fossil-fuel industry backed national group that drafts state legislation favorable to oil and gas interests, the Energy and Policy Institute began the online petition.

Vaad, who has held a number of positions in state government, was a state representative for House District 48 from 2007 to 2012, served eight years as a Weld County commissioner, two on the county's Planning and Zoning Commission and nine on the St. Vrain Valley Board of Education.

In a press statement issued Thursday, the Energy and Policy Institute cited Vaad's ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate lobbying group which includes Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and the Edison Electric Institute, which the press statement describes as a trade association for Xcel Energy. The institute fears that ALEC influence on the PUC "will harm Colorado's prospects for adding more renewable energy to the grid and damage the state's cleantech sector that employs 22,000 people."

"There is a clear conflict of interest," said Gabe Elsner, the institute's executive director, in the press statement. "Vaad was a high-ranking representative of a corporate lobbying group that is coordinating a national attack on clean energy. ... On Feb. 3, a Colorado PUC hearing is scheduled to consider an Xcel Energy request to slash solar payments to homeowners who invest in clean-energy. There's a real threat that Mr. Vaad will serve ALEC's special interest members instead of Colorado families."

The statement says that in 2011 and 2012, Vaad chaired ALEC's Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development task force and received an ALEC "State Legislator of the Year" Award in 2012. An October 2012 report from watchdog group Common Cause said Vaad received ALEC "scholarships" in 2006, 2007 and 2008, including money from Xcel Energy.

As a PUC commissioner, according to the press statement, "Vaad will be ruling on renewable-energy cases including net metering for rooftop solar, ongoing implementation of renewable portfolio standards and the potential transfer of Xcel Energy assets to the city of Boulder as part of a voter-backed municipalization process."

Besides investor-owned power utilities such as Xcel Energy, the PUC also regulates such services as taxi and limousine businesses and telecommunications.

In appointing Vaad to fill the Republican chair on the PUC, Hickenlooper issued a statement saying that "Glenn is a distinguished leader who has dedicated much of his life to public service. He knows how to listen to all sides of an issue and work with varied interests to find common ground. Glenn is calm, courageous and a good addition" to the PUC.

After the appointment, Vaad said in a press statement, "I look forward to diving into the often complex regulatory issues facing the Public Utilities Commission and helping to negotiate the right balance between energy development and the environment."

Vaad was unavailable for comment about the watchdog group's charges or the online petition.