Obama to renominate LaFleur to second term

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014

President Obama announced his intention last night to renominate Democrat Cheryl LaFleur to another five years on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, pleasing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

LaFleur, once rumored to be a potential presidential pick to lead the agency, has been serving as acting chairwoman since former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff officially stepped down last year. Her term was slated to expire next month.Senators from both parties called on Obama to renominate LaFleur, a former New England utility executive who has been credited for improving reliability and grid security, promoting regional transmission planning, and supporting a clean and diverse power supply for the country.

Obama in January overlooked LaFleur and nominated Norman Bay, director of FERC’s Office of Enforcement, to serve as the agency’s next chairman.

Bay, a former U.S. attorney from New Mexico, has directed stepped-up FERC investigations into Wall Street giants including Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays PLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which last year was fined a record $410 million for gaming the energy markets.

Obama’s earlier nomination of Ron Binz, a former Colorado state regulator who drew the ire of the fossil fuel industry, fizzled before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year.

Bay is also on conservatives’ radar.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, a free-market 501(c)(3), filed a lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accusing FERC of refusing to release documents in response to an October 2013 Freedom of Information Act request related to “alleged maneuvering” by Wellinghoff to reclassify Bay as a career employee in a senior executive service position.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commitee, told reporters yesterday that it’s still not clear when the panel will hold a confirmation hearing for Bay.