REID SAYS FERC NOMINEES TO GET VOTE WHEN SENATE RETURNS FROM JULY 4 RECESS

Coal-Fired Power Plant Photo Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The Senate will vote on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees Cheryl LaFleur and Norman Bay when the Senate returns from its Fourth of July recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Bloomberg BNA.

We are going to try get them done, probably not this time, but [the] next week we come back, Reid said in a brief interview.

Under a compromise agreement reached earlier this month between the White House and Senate leaders, FERC Acting Chairman LaFleur will continue to lead the commission for nine months, following Senate confirmation of her nomination to a second term.

Then Bay, who currently is FERC's market enforcement director and Reid's choice for the chairmanship, would take over as chairman of the commission, which regulates the nation's electric grid, as well as liquefied natural gas export terminal siting, wholesale electricity markets, pipeline permitting and rates, power market manipulation and other energy issues.

Landrieu Predicts Confirmation

Separately, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, predicted that the nominees would win Senate approval. We have the votes to pass them, Landrieu told reporters.

The obscure independent agency has taken on new importance as it weighs in on energy reliability issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations of existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, increasing the amount of renewables on the grid and security issues related to terrorist attacks on the nation's electricity grid.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 13-9 to approve Bay's nomination to a seat on the commission June 18, with all Republicans voting except for Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.), who supported Bay because of his Western-state ties.

Concerns About Aggressive Enforcement

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, opposed Bay, citing a lack of experience as a regulator and aggressive market enforcement against energy trading companies such as JPMorgan and Barclays Bank.

I will just note there are an awful lot of nominees that have been sitting and waiting to have their time on the floor, Murkowski told reporters June 24. We just moved these guys out last week, so if Leader Reid decides [to move forward] he is going to bump everybody else for his guy.”

The five-member commission has been without a permanent chairman since November, when former Chairman Jon Wellinghoff left to join the Stoel Rives LLP environmental law firm.

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