White House looks to replace Binz, Senate panel spokesman says

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013

The White House is considering other candidates to replace President Obama’s troubled pick of Colorado regulator Ron Binz to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said today.

“The committee is aware other candidates are being considered for FERC,” said Keith Chu, spokesman for Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Binz’s prospects for winning the approval of the energy committee have plummeted with all 10 Republican senators and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia vowing to oppose him for his views on fossil fuels and questions arising about whether Binz lied to the panel’s top Republican about coordinating with the White House (E&E Daily, Sept. 26).

The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Rumors swirled yesterday on Capitol Hill that Binz, who’s drawn fire from the coal industry and conservative groups, had pulled his name from the nomination, but Wyden’s office said it had received no such notification (E&ENews PM, Sept. 25).

Obama tapped Binz to replace Jon Wellinghoff at the helm of FERC, which regulates the electric grid, gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas export terminals and hydroelectric projects. The next chairman will serve a five-year term.

The Binz nomination quickly drew fire from conservative and libertarian groups who accused him of undermining coal and gas, pitting them against green groups and former FERC commissioners who said Binz was an evenhanded regulator.

Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the committee’s ranking Republican, said there are other qualified candidates less controversial than Binz, but he added that “the committee’s role is to advise and consent, and we’ll consider nominees on an individual basis as they come before the committee.”

Sources have pointed to Colette Honorable, chairwoman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, who will soon take the helm of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, as a possible contender for a FERC nomination.