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Wellinghoff States FERC Priorities, Creates Innovation Office

Taking the reins last week in the first open FERC meeting since President Obama tapped him to serve as chairman, Jon Wellinghoff listed his priorities, a number of staff changes within the Commission and also announced the formation of an office to tackle new challenges and issues while evolving the decision-making process.

Wellinghoff said his priorities as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are to build upon the Commission's reputation as an agency that is efficient and timely in its decision-making, respected for its technical and legal expertise and recognized for the leadership it brings to energy issues.

"Toward that end, we will maintain our commitment to four fundamental Commission responsibilities: developing needed energy infrastructure, fostering competitive energy markets that produce just and reasonable rates, overseeing reliability standards, and effectively enforcing both market and reliability rules," he said during Thursday's meeting.

Since joining the Commission in 2006, Wellinghoff said he has emphasized action on issues that the Commission "has only recently begun to pursue aggressively." Those issues include:

While applauding the work of former chairman Joseph Kelliher and the rest of the commissioners, Wellinghoff noted that there is more work to be done. "We are at a critical juncture in the development of our nation's energy policies. Our existing infrastructure too often is inefficient and will not be capable of meeting our nation's future energy needs and challenges. We must develop the technologically vibrant systems that our nation's consumers deserve," he said.

"In addition, the intersection between environmental policy and energy policy is becoming increasingly important. Indeed, issues surrounding climate change, renewable resources, energy efficiency, and developing a smart grid are emerging as drivers for energy policy. These same issues are front and center in the emerging energy policies of the new administration and are also the subject of a number of legislative initiatives currently being considered on Capitol Hill."

To address the current issues and challenges, Wellinghoff said he has created the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, which will be looking for ways to encourage and incorporate new ideas and fresh approaches into the Commission's decision-making process.

The new office, which begins operation on May 4, will be headed by Jamie Simler, who has 23 years of experience in the energy industry and has been the deputy director of the Office of Energy Market Regulation (OEMR) since 2005.

Wellinghoff also announced the retirement of Shelton Cannon, who has served the Commission for 29 years, most recently as the director of the OEMR.

With Cannon's retirement, Mike McLaughlin will become the director of OEMR. McLaughlin has 25 years of experience at the Commission, most recently as deputy director of the Office of Electric Reliability. Cochrane will become the deputy director of OEMR. She has 25 years of experience in the energy industry and has worked both in the private sector and at the Commission. Since 2006, Cochrane has been deputy director of the Office of Enforcement.

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