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Binz grilled at confirmation hearing; nomination may be in trouble

From the September 18, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published September 18, 2013

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director
Ron Binz, President Obama’s choice to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, faced tough questions from skeptical Republicans at a Sept. 17 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing. Perhaps of more concern for Binz were comments by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. While Manchin did not say how he would vote, he said Binz’s record indicates he strongly favors renewables—and added that "West Virginia is getting the crap beat out of us by this administration." 

A "no" vote by Manchin would mean at best a tie vote by the committee on the nomination, assuming all 10 GOP members vote against the nomination. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is seen as another possible no vote.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said she would not support Binz. Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., said Binz’s views were outside the mainstream.

Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., defended Binz and sought to defuse some of the controversy over his nomination by stressing a number of times that FERC "has no authority to regulate coal." The commission "has no authority to impose unjust or unreasonable rates or impose discriminatory or preferential charges on coal or coal-generated electricity—that means no backdoor taxes on coal or coal-generated electricity," he said.

Binz’s nomination unexpectedly—particularly for an agency more often described as obscure or backwater—became a lightning rod. Conservative groups came out against him, as did the coal industry, and The Wall Street Journal ran editorials opposing his nomination. On the other side, the Green Tech Action Fund hired a public relations firm to help with the nomination and emails surfaced showing that Binz discussed his nomination process with two lobbyists, FERC staff, a White House official and the public relations firm. Wyden, Murkowski and Binz all decried the process.


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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella

Editorial Director
Robert Varela

Editor, Public Power Daily
Jeannine Anderson

Communications Assistant
Fallon W. Forbush

Manager, Integrated Media 
David L. Blaylock

Integrated Media Editor 
Laura D’Alessandro