Reid Pushed White House to Appoint Energy Regulator Now Targeted by Conservatives

Sen. Harry Reid
National Journal
Amy Harder
See more stories about...
Amy Harder
Sept. 13, 2013, 12:29 p.m.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., per­suaded the White House to drop its nom­in­ee to lead an ob­scure but im­port­ant fed­er­al en­ergy agency and re­place him with an ap­pointee whose con­firm­a­tion pro­cess is now em­broiled in con­tro­versy, ac­cord­ing to the trade pub­lic­a­tion Trans­mis­sion Hub.

Re­id con­sidered Pres­id­ent Obama’s ori­gin­al choice for chair­man of the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion, John Nor­ris, to be too “pro-coal,” the Hub re­por­ted Thursday. Obama then tapped Ron Binz, former chair of the Col­or­ado Pub­lic Util­it­ies Com­mis­sion, to be FERC chair­man.

Binz’s con­firm­a­tion hear­ing is sched­uled for Tues­day be­fore the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee, and some fire­works are ex­pec­ted. Con­tro­versy over Binz’s nom­in­a­tion has es­cal­ated over the past couple of months, in­clud­ing a scath­ing Wall Street Journ­al ed­it­or­i­al in Ju­ly de­scrib­ing Binz as the “most im­port­ant and rad­ic­al Obama nom­in­ee you’ve nev­er heard of.”

The Journ­al ed­it­or­i­al board, along with con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, some Demo­crats (in­clud­ing Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.), and the coal in­dustry have cri­ti­cized Binz’s past work. This in­cludes a state law he helped write that aimed to shut down coal-fired power plants and his up­front philo­sophy of fa­vor­ing re­new­able en­ergy.

FERC over­sees the in­ter­state trans­mis­sion of elec­tri­city and oil and nat­ur­al-gas pipelines, as well as hy­dro­elec­tri­city pro­jects. It does not have any dir­ect in­flu­ence in power-gen­er­a­tion policy-mak­ing.

Obama first nom­in­ated Nor­ris to FERC in 2010. He is the second-most seni­or Demo­crat on the five-mem­ber pan­el after out­go­ing Chair­man Jon Welling­hoff.

Nor­ris was pre­vi­ously chief of staff to Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack, a former gov­ernor of Iowa. Nor­ris’s roots are in Iowa; he was chair­man of the Iowa Util­it­ies Board and served on sev­er­al oth­er util­ity or­gan­iz­a­tions based in the state. He earned both his un­der­gradu­ate and gradu­ate de­grees in Iowa.

“Re­id’s chief of staff in­formed me that Re­id in­ter­vened with the White house to stop my ap­point­ment as chair be­cause, as told to me by his chief of staff, I was ‘too pro-coal,’ ” Nor­ris told Trans­mis­sion Hub.

Nor­ris denied the char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion by Re­id’s of­fice that he is pro-coal, ac­cord­ing to the Hub. He also told the pub­lic­a­tion that he be­lieves his nom­in­a­tion was blocked be­cause Re­id wanted a FERC chair­man from a West­ern state.

Kristen Orth­man, spokes­wo­man for Re­id’s of­fice, denied Nor­ris’s claims. “Un­for­tu­nately Com­mis­sion­er Nor­ris is wrongly blam­ing oth­ers and mak­ing ac­cus­a­tions that are not ac­cur­ate,” Orth­man said in an e-mail to Na­tion­al Journ­al

Mean­while, a group of en­vir­on­ment­al act­iv­ists has hired a Wash­ing­ton PR firm, VennSquared Com­mu­nic­a­tions, to cam­paign for Binz as he heads in­to what looks like a tough and testy Sen­ate con­firm­a­tion pro­cess.

On Thursday, the Wash­ing­ton Times re­por­ted on e-mails that re­vealed two former Re­id staffers — Chris Miller, who left the lead­er’s of­fice earli­er this year as his top en­ergy and en­vir­on­ment aide, and Kai An­der­son — also have helped with Binz’s con­firm­a­tion pro­cess.

This isn’t the first time Re­id has wiel­ded his in­flu­ence in a fight over an ob­scure en­ergy agency. He was in­stru­ment­al in hav­ing Gregory Jaczko, a former Re­id aide, ap­poin­ted chair­man of the Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion, a post Jaczko left last year after a con­tro­versy over his man­age­ment style.

Cor­al Dav­en­port con­trib­uted

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×