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POLITICS: PennAve

White House names new FERC chief

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Politics,Senate,EPA,PennAve,FERC,Energy and Environment,Zack Colman,Electricity,Power Plants,Grid Security

President Obama named Cheryl LaFleur chairwoman of the nation's electric grid regulator for a nine-month term, honoring a deal between Senate Democrats and the White House.

LaFleur, who has served as acting head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since November, eventually will step aside for Norman Bay, Obama's choice to lead the agency. LaFleur will remain as commissioner.

The arrangement attempted to assuage concerns by Republicans and some Democrats that Bay, who led FERC's enforcement office but had never been a commissioner, lacked the experience to lead the agency.

But Bay had strong support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who said he didn't want LaFleur or John Norris, another FERC commissioner who was considered a possible candidate, atop the commission.

FERC is facing a changing electricity industry, much of which is being driven by falling renewable energy prices, cheaper natural gas and environmental regulations that are forcing a shift away from the traditional coal-fired generation that has dominated electricity delivery for decades.

The agency is charged with managing the influx of those new resources — with approving some of the infrastructure and wholesale market rates to support them — while also ensuring electric reliability, which Republicans and industry are worried could become shaky under various Obama administration emissions rules for power plants.

LaFleur said she is "very honored to lead the commission at such an important time for the nation’s energy infrastructure and markets."

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Zack Colman

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner

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