2 nominees set for Senate vote early next week

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Senate is set to vote next week on President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after a delicate agreement was reached stating that the nominee would not actually take the helm of the agency for almost a year.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture yesterday to vote Tuesday on the nominations of Norman Bay to be a member of FERC until 2018 and the White House choice to head the commission, and for Cheryl LaFleur to another five-year term as commissioner.

LaFleur is the current acting chairwoman, and there are many — including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — who would like her to remain as leader of the independent agency.

Murkowski and eight other Republicans voted against Bay last month, but he was confirmed by the committee, with all 12 Democrats along with Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada voting in support of him. That vote was made with the understanding that the White House would allow Bay to ascend to the role of chairman after nine months (E&E Daily, June 26).

The committee confirmed LaFleur with 21 votes. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the lone vote against her.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the committee’s chairwoman, told reporters before the recess that there were enough supporters in the Senate to get Bay and LaFleur confirmed — although it is the former nominee who is the biggest concern for many.

Bay has been criticized for his actions as the head of FERC’s enforcement division, in particular for what some have viewed as harsh fines, and for inexperience. Reid has also strongly pushed for Bay’s installment as FERC chairman, which critics see as politicizing and meddling with the independent agency.

The previously quiet agency drew the spotlight last year when Obama selected Ron Binz, a former Colorado regulator, to lead FERC, but his nomination was derailed after drawing fire from fossil fuel and free-market groups.