By Brian Wingfield
President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dropped out after opposition from Republicans and a key Democrat concerned he would support renewable energy at the expense of coal all but doomed his nomination.
Ron Binz, a former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, said he won’t seek the FERC chairmanship because he didn’t have the support of a majority of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was considering his nomination.
“Last evening I asked the President that my name be withdrawn from further consideration as his nominee” to the FERC, Binz said today in a statement this morning. “I am withdrawing so that the President can move forward with another nominee, allowing the FERC to continue its important work with a full complement of commissioners.”
While the White House hasn’t named a replacement, possible candidates to head the FERC now include Colette Honorable, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, and FERC commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a former executive vice president of National Grid Plc’s U.S. subsidiary, according to industry officials that conduct business with the five-member commission.
Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, on Sept. 25 said he would vote against Binz, virtually ensuring that the nominee wouldn’t have the backing of a majority of the Senate committee. The other nine Republicans on the 22-person panel already said they would oppose the nomination. Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, also planned to vote against Binz.
Republicans led by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the party’s top member on the committee, lined up against Binz after his Sept. 17 confirmation hearing before the panel. Murkowski told Binz at the hearing she was concerned he wasn’t forthcoming about the extent of his support from lobbyists and public-relations officials.
Others, including Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Manchin have said Binz displayed a bias toward renewable fuels at the expense of coal as head of the Colorado regulatory authority. Without Manchin’s support, Binz needed the backing of at least one Republican on the Senate committee.
Binz, who had the support of clean-energy groups and 12 former FERC commissioners from both parties, said at his confirmation hearing that he was open about the support he had received to help prepare for his nomination. He also said he wasn’t against coal and supported the use of natural gas as a fuel source.
Even if the committee had recommended his nomination, Binz faced an uphill battle before the full Senate.
“His nomination is yet another threat to American energy and jobs and I will work to defeat it,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a Sept. 19 statement.
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