Hebert Attack Raises Tensions at FERC
Tensions between Commissioner Curt Hebert Jr. and some fellow
commissioners, which have been rumored to be running high over the
past months, boiled over in the public meeting last week when the
combative regulator publicly labeled as "disingenu[ous] and
intellectually dishonest" the majority's decision in a
hydroelectric dam decommissioning case.
Commissioner William Massey, who obviously was annoyed,
questioned Hebert about whether the highly charged remarks were
directed at Commission colleagues personally. "I want to get
clarification on that because it's important to me in our future
relationship, Curt, frankly," he said. "Disingenu[ous], if applied
to the motivations of one of your fellow commissioners voting for
this order, would be fairly harsh."
Hebert shot back that his attack wasn't personal, but rather was
aimed at the order. "I think I've made that clear. Commissioner
Massey, you and I have had a wonderful relationship, and it is my
belief that we will continue to do so unless you choose
otherwise...I'm certainly not attacking you personally. I know
you're not looking for an apology and I'm certainly not going to
give one because I do believe in my position."
Responding to Hebert's criticism, Chairman James Hoecker said
the decisions "represent a high degree of intellectual integrity,
and they do not represent a political agenda."
The war of words preceded the FERC majority's decision, by a
narrow vote of 3-2, to uphold a November order calling for the
decommissioning of a hydroelectric dam in Maine. Hebert, who
supported vacating the controversial order, filibustered his
position for nearly two hours, accusing the majority of
overstepping its authority under the Federal Power Act by ordering
the decommissioning of the Edwards Manufacturing dam. Commissioner
Vicky Bailey sided with Hebert on the issue, but was much less
Afterwards, Hebert said "absolutely not" when asked if he
thought the heated debate might have hurt his relations with the
other commissioners. "I would hope that a professional debate
wouldn't damage anyone's outlook on how we work together. I think
he [Massey] appeared to be a little bit bothered, but I hope I
straightened that out with the answer that it wasn't personal."
As a professional lawyer, Hebert said he's accustomed to doing
battle with attorney-friends in the courtroom, and "then we go have
lunch together and a cold drink after work that day. My experience
is lawyers are good at that."
As a FERC commissioner, "I'm paid $118,000 a year to do my best
job possible on the issues, and I tried to put $118,000 worth into
[last Wednesday's] debate," he told NGI. Critics say "'Curt, your
comments sure were lively.' But if we had vacated the order by a
vote of 3-2, what do you think the other two would have said. I
assure you their debate would have been as furious as mine was."