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Texas RRC Veteran Smitherman Reportedly Eyed For FERC Seat

Former Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Chairman Barry Smitherman has been tipped in press reports as a candidate to join FERC. His addition to the Commission would add the voice of a strong advocate for the oil/natural gas industry to the currently quorumless body.

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Smitherman -- an ally of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, President Trump's pick to head the U.S. Department of Energy -- had been in talks with the incoming Trump administration about joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Smitherman was an investment banker before he was named by Perry to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. While a utility regulator, Smitherman said Texas needed more baseload power generating capacity, not fired by natural gas. At the end of 2005 he lamented, "We have not built a plant that generates electricity in this market in 30 years, except for natural gas-fired plants. We've got to begin to build more generation in this country, and particularly in this state, that's baseload and not just driven by natural gas."

Perry later appointed Smitherman to a seat on the three-member RRC in 2011. In 2012 when Smitherman sought to retain his seat on the RRC, he ran unopposed. While on the RRC, Smitherman was a frequent critic of federal regulation of the oil and natural gas industry. He has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than a half-dozen times.

In 2015, after losing a Republican primary for the post of Texas attorney general, Smitherman joined law firm Vinson & Elkins as a partner. He left the firm in January, which has fueled speculation that he is a candidate to join the Trump administration.

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