Landrieu uncertain whether she’ll support FERC nominee

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said today she’s “encouraged” by Ron Binz’s views on natural gas but hasn’t decided whether to support his nomination to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“I’m still collecting information and data from him, but I was encouraged by his testimony about his support for natural gas, his support for exports of natural gas and his understanding that natural gas is a cleaner fuel,” Landrieu said in an interview on Capitol Hill.

Landrieu’s scheduled meeting with Binz on Monday was delayed by the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., she said, but she had a 15-minute phone conversation with the former Colorado energy regulator ahead of his confirmation hearing Tuesday.

“I’m reviewing his record carefully, and we’ll make a decision next week,” Landrieu said.

Obama tapped Binz to lead FERC, which oversees transmission planning and siting, interstate natural gas pipelines, and hydropower projects. The agency rarely attracts attention on Capitol Hill, but Binz’s nomination has been a lightning rod as clean energy groups and conservative and libertarian-leaning organizations battled over his record as a state regulator.

Binz’s confirmation prospects are unclear. The likelihood of his securing the approval of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was called into question when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin from coal-rich West Virginia vowed to vote “no,” which could result in a tie on the panel that has 10 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

A tie vote would likely doom the nomination. A committee member could move to report the nomination without a favorable recommendation — but that would require a majority vote to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could also bring the nomination up for a vote on the Senate floor, but that would require unanimous consent.

Manchin has said Binz is “unacceptable” for “demonizing coal and gas,” and he voiced his opposition after ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) took similar positions.

Binz may have a harder time garnering Republican support today after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a statement vowing to oppose Obama’s “anti-coal” nominee.

“Ron Binz has been handpicked by the Senate Majority Leader to be another foot soldier in his and this administration’s War on Coal,” McConnell said. “Like the Majority Leader, Binz has a proven track record of hostility toward coal and other traditional fossil fuels.”

McConnell said Binz’s nomination is “yet another threat to American energy and jobs and I will work to defeat it.”

Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he’s working on scheduling a vote.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also said today that she has not made up her mind about Binz. But she quickly followed up that she has “reservations based on what I’ve heard.