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House Science Panel Staff Member Signals Interest in Fifth FERC Seat

House Science Panel Staff Member Signals Interest in Fifth FERC Seat

Although it's been less than two months since FERC Commissioners Joseph T. Kelliher and Suedeen Kelly joined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the names of people interested in filling the agency's still-vacant fifth seat are beginning to surface.

Charles Cooke, a staff member of the House Science Committee and a former staff member with FERC's predecessor, the Federal Power Commission (FPC), acknowledged Wednesday that he has been eyeing the Commission seat.

"I certainly would be interested, but who knows whether it [the seat] will be available," he told NGI. "It's vacant, but the question is whether there is any interest in filling it." That, he believes, will depend on the White House, which makes the nominations, and on the "likelihood of the nomination going forward in the Senate."

Cooke said he has not spoken to anyone at FERC about his interest in the seat that was vacated by Commissioner William Massey who left the agency last month at the end of a 10-year term.

The FERC aspirant said he has the backing of Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, a long-time Democrat who recently switched his party affiliation to Republican.

Cooke, a Democrat, said he worked at the FPC from 1974 through 1977, and has considerable experience on Capitol Hill. He noted he has been involved in oil and natural gas and electric issues for 30 years.

Currently, FERC is operating with four members -- Chairman Pat Wood, Commissioners Nora Brownell, Kelliher and Kelly. Wood, Brownell and Kelliher are Republicans, and Kelly is the sole Democrat. Whoever is chosen for the fifth seat would have to be either a Democrat or an Independent. There can be no more than three commissioners from one political party on the panel at the same time.

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