White House nominates Ark. regulator for commission seat

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2014

President Obama yesterday announced his intention to nominate Colette Honorable, a top state utility regulator and a rumored favorite for months, to serve as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Honorable is currently slated to serve as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners through November.

If confirmed by the Senate, Honorable would replace FERC Commissioner John Norris, who resigned earlier this month to take a position with the Department of Agriculture in Rome after accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of blocking his bid for the chairmanship.

Her term would expire June 30, 2017.

Some sources say Honorable’s nomination could signal smooth sailing for the White House, as she has often been cited as a safe pick — an even-handed regulator, a moderate on energy issues and a strong community leader (Greenwire, Oct. 4, 2013).

Sources have said Senate opponents will have a hard time pegging her as anti-coal.

She currently serves as chairwoman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission — a position she has held since 2011 — where she approved retrofitting coal plants to comply with new U.S. EPA air standards.

But other observers question what Honorable has to offer Reid, who has repeatedly expressed his deepening interest in the powerful energy agency and has publicly stated his intent to ensure his picks are seated.

“Her record is not anti coal,” Mike McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist and strategist, wrote in an email. “She’s too normal. There’s too much of a possibility that she may not be willing to be Senator Reid’s puppet.”

Honorable has had a thriving legal career for more than 15 years.

She worked under Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) when he was the state’s attorney general. She also worked for the attorney general’s office as it changed hands from Pryor to Mike Beebe (D), who went on to become governor. Honorable worked on his legislative team and later served as Beebe’s chief of staff.

In 2007, Beebe appointed Honorable to serve on the Arkansas Public Service Commission as a commissioner.

But soon after, Paul Suskie, the chairman at the time, received orders that he would be deployed to Iraq with the Arkansas National Guard, and Honorable was designated interim chairwoman in 2008. In 2011, Beebe appointed Honorable the state agency’s permanent chairwoman.