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

Sen. Harry Reid
National Journal
Amy Harder
Add to Briefcase
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 »
ANNOUNCED BY SCARAMUCCI
Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is New Press Secretary
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAYS IT WAS “AN HONOR”
Spicer Staying on Through August
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
FIRST IN WEEKS
On-Camera Press Briefing Today at 2
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
HE LASTED SIX MONTHS
Sean Spicer Resigns
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

He resigned this morning, "telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director." Per Politico, "chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon" were opposed to the appointment, while "Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell" were supportive..."Another White House official said Spicer was gracious while breaking the news of his departure, offered some praise for Scaramucci, while saying he would help with a transition."

Source:
STAFF IS PUSHING BACK
Trump Wants Scaramucci to Helm WH Communications
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump is expected to announce that Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci will be White House communications director, according to two sources familiar with the planning. Trump has left the role open since Mike Dubke resigned in May, and the President has vented frequently to his friends about the performance of his press operation." According to NBC News, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are resisting the move.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login