AUGUSTA –– The state Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Gov. Paul LePage’s nominee to a state board that plays a key role in energy and utilities regulation.

The Senate voted 33-0 in favor of seating Carlisle McLean on the Public Utilities Commission. McLean, who has been LePage’s chief legal counsel since 2013, will serve a four-year term, filling the open seat left by former Chairman Tom Welch, who retired in December before his term was up.

McLean is LePage’s third appointment to the three-member board, but the governor’s appointments have not all served at the same time. That could change in March when the term of David Littell, appointed by former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, expires. Patrick Woodcock, the governor’s energy director, is considered a leading candidate to replace Littell.

The PUC plays a significant part in approving energy projects and electricity rates. The governor has repeatedly criticized Maine’s rates as too high to attract and retain manufacturers. While LePage appointed two of the board’s three commissioners during his first term, he has assailed the PUC for not doing more to make energy affordable for all Mainers. The governor has been particularly critical of the board’s authorization of energy contracts and tax policies designed to encourage wind and other renewable energy development.

McLean will join the PUC as the board considers a proposal to increase natural gas pipeline capacity in the state. The proposal would charge Maine ratepayers $75 million a year to subsidize the project. LePage is a supporter of expanding natural gas capacity and has said doing so is important to supporting and attracting large manufacturers.