Binz blames ‘right-wing’ groups, coal industry for sinking his FERC bid

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ron Binz blasted the coal industry and “right-wing advocacy organizations” this weekend for killing his nomination to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, saying the fight was actually about climate change and the role of the federal government.

Speaking yesterday on “Platts Energy Week,” Binz blamed the coal industry, utilities that use coal and 12 groups with ties to the Koch brothers for persuading a majority of members on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to kill his nomination.

“[Those groups] put pressure on a lot of lawmakers, they scared up a lot of things in the media, and so that what I was confronted with in Washington was a caricature of me, a fictional Ron Binz that I didn’t even recognize,” the former Colorado energy regulator said in an interview taped at his consulting firm in Denver.

Binz also said The Wall Street Journal editorial board was the first mover to paint a “fictional Ron Binz,” but he’s not sure why the conservative-leaning panel decided to attack him.

“I don’t even think I canceled my subscription,” Binz said. “I don’t know what got their dander up.”

The issue of climate change was on trial during his confirmation hearing, as well as the role government should play in pushing the energy industry toward a low-carbon future, Binz said. Some groups accused him of being an “activist” for expressing views that utility regulators can also act in a “legislative mode” (Greenwire, Sept. 17).

Binz said the “political right, kind of consonant with the other themes they push, doesn’t want to see any kind of initiative to get us to the solutions we need to get to.”

Conservative groups also fueled the misperception that FERC has a direct role in crafting climate change solutions, when in reality the agency is more of an “enabler” or “gatekeeper” that can remove barriers to the grid, which can then accept whatever energy resource mix materializes in the future, Binz said.

U.S. EPA is the agency that uses the Clean Air Act to restrict emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and directly affects generation choices, Binz said.

“My nomination became a place where all of those agendas were played out,” he said, adding he wants to see greenhouse gases — not coal — phased out.

Ultimately, Binz said it was his decision alone to pull his name after it became clear he didn’t have the votes on the Senate panel.

He also expressed concern that the federal government is lagging behind states like Colorado and North Carolina that are reducing their carbon footprints.