White House hands gavel to LaFleur, as Bay stands by

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014

President Obama officially named Cheryl LaFleur today to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until next April.

The White House has designated Norman Bay to take over the chairmanship on April 15, 2015.

LaFleur had been FERC’s acting chairwoman since the resignation of former Chairman Jon Wellinghoff last November.

The unusual measure of having a chairman-in-waiting is the result of a tumultuous confirmation process for Bay, currently the head of FERC’s Office of Enforcement, and for LaFleur for a second term. LaFleur was officially sworn in this week. Bay still hasn’t been sworn in, according to FERC.

Obama picked Bay earlier this year to not only be a commissioner but take the reins as chairman. The move was heavily criticized in particular by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and it gave some Democrats pause, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

On the other side, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) favored Bay but said he did not support reconfirming LaFleur to the agency.

In response, Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Manchin struck a deal with the White House to renominate and keep LaFleur as full chairwoman for nine months, after which Obama could name a different FERC leader.

With that deal in hand, the Senate confirmed Bay by a narrow margin, 52-45. LaFleur sailed through, 90-7 (E&ENews PM, July 15).

“I am very honored to lead the Commission at such an important time for the nation’s energy infrastructure and markets. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the dedicated FERC staff,” LaFleur said in a statement.

At the FERC meeting last month, LaFleur said she would continue her focus on reliability and security. She said she would pay particular attention to energy infrastructure to support changes in the resource mix, to gas pipeline networks and to transmission improvements.

“As the carbon regulations get more developed, there will certainly be adaptations in our market that we will have to get started on,” she said.

LaFleur also confirmed at that meeting she intended to stay for her full five years as commissioner with no plans to step down after her nine months as chairwoman end (Greenwire, July 17)