Policy: Environment & Energy

Senate Energy Committee set to vote on FERC nominees

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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., said her panel will vote Wednesday on who to move to the floor as the nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Landrieu said talks with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House were continuing on swapping Norman Bay, who President Obama nominated to lead the FERC with strong backing from Reid, for acting chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur, who is favored by Republicans and some Democrats.

"We don't know what we're voting on, but we're voting," Landrieu told reporters Thursday in the Capitol.

Landrieu indicated, however, that she was willing to proceed on Bay if no deal is reached. She noted former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., a former energy committee chairman who Landrieu called a mentor, recommended Bay for the post.

"This is not as cut and dry as some people might like to make it out to be," she said. "Norman Bay is very intelligent and has a good bit of experience — you know, not exactly the experience some people would like — but Pete Domenici's word goes a long way with me."

Some lawmakers, largely Republicans as well as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would rather see Bay take a turn at commissioner before leading the agency, which regulates the nation's electric grid. Bay has headed the FERC's enforcement office, but has never served as commissioner, while LaFleur has served as acting chairwoman since November. The White House instead nominated LaFleur to serve another term as commissioner.

"The concern is that there is a very capable individual who is currently acting chair, and she was an Obama nominee," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters this week. "I just don't see a reason for the president to demote her to put this other guy in there as the chairman of the FERC. I would rather see her continue as chair."

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is challenging Landrieu for her Senate seat, joined the rest of the GOP Louisiana House delegation in a letter that urged Landrieu to block Bay's nomination.

"We are concerned that Mr. Bay lacks the qualifications to serve on the FERC and that he will simply act as a rubberstamp for the Administration's policies," the letter said.

Much of the insistence on Bay has come from Reid. He told the Wall Street Journal recently that Obama passed over LaFleur, "Because I don't want her as chair."

This article was originally posted at 2:02 p.m. and has since been updated.

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