Barton Backs His Choice for Vacant FERC Seat
The race for the vacant Republican seat at FERC is getting
awfully crowded as a third candidate from Capitol Hill has signaled
his interest in the post.
Joseph T. Kelliher, majority counsel for the House Commerce
Committee, has said he wants to be considered for the Commission
spot, according to Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the energy and
power subcommittee. The Texas Republican said he plans to form a
coalition to support Kelliher in his effort.
Kelliher joins Nils Johnson, a long-time energy aide of Sen.
Larry E. Craig (R-ID), and McLane Layton, legislative aide and
legal counsel on energy issues for Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), both of
whom have thrown their hats into the ring for the FERC position.
The post was vacated last month by ex-Commissioner Vicky Bailey,
who left to join Cinergy Corp.
Barton made the announcement last Tuesday during a day-long
conference sponsored by The Energy Daily and The Hill publications
that addressed "The Outlook for Energy Legislation" this year.
Kelliher's energy background - both on Capitol Hill and in the
energy industry - dates back to 1985. He has served in his current
capacity for the past five years, during which time he was the lead
counsel on the electricity restructuring bill that was voted out by
the energy and power subcommittee last year. Prior to that,
Kelliher was manager of federal affairs for Public Service Electric
& Gas Co. He also worked for the American Nuclear Energy
Council and served as a legislative assistant to Rep. Barton, where
he drafted amendments to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
Starting in 1985, Kelliher was director of the House Republican
Energy and Environment Task Force for two years, during which he
spearheaded a drive to overturn the legislative moratoria on
offshore oil and gas development. He received his law degree from
American University in 1994, and his bachelor of science degree
from Georgetown University in 1983.
Separately, Barton still is clinging to the hope that
comprehensive legislation to restructure the electricity industry
will make it to the president's desk this year. On the House side,
"I happen to think the electricity bill [which came out of his
subcommittee] is a possible do" in 2000, he said at the conference.
"If you take what we [did] and massage it some," Barton noted he
believes it's possible to move a House bill as early as this
spring. "The fixings are there. We just have to put it in the oven
and cook it a little."
But some of Barton's House colleagues, who also spoke at the
conference, weren't nearly as optimistic. "I don't see any bill
this year because there are so many interest groups slugging it
out," said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH). He believes it would
"take a battle" to get a retail power bill on the House floor in
Rep. Charles Pickering Jr. (R-MS) believes that in the "next few
weeks [the] smoke should clear a little bit," and then "[we'll]
know what is clear and possible this year." If it turns out that a
broad electricity bill isn't in the cards in 2000, Pickering
floated the idea of a stand-alone measure that would address the
reliability issue by possibly offering tax incentives for
generation and transmission.
The "potential for a summer crisis" this year would make the
argument for at least moving a reliability piece, he said. Other
energy-related ornaments could be attached to the reliability
measure, but it "cannot be very many [ornaments]," Pickering noted.
"It will have to be a small tree" if it is to get through Congress.
If comprehensive electricity legislation fails this year, Barton
--- who will be unopposed in next fall's elections --- pledged to
take up the banner in the next Congress. In the event that
Democrats gain control of the House he said he may be the "docile
ranking" member of the subcommittee. However, if Republicans lead
the House, he could be a "dark-horse candidate" for chairman of the
Although a big supporter of comprehensive legislation, FERC
Commissioner William Massey said he had several concerns with the
bill that came out of the subcommittee, H.R. 2944. Foremost, he
criticized its decision to split transmission jurisdiction between
the states and FERC, giving the states authority over transmission
that's bundled with retail power transactions and the Commission
authority over the transmission of unbundled wholesale
transactions. Massey said the "same strand of [lines] should not
have competing masters."
Also, he was concerned the measure would "weaken" the
Commission's ability to form regional transmission organizations
(RTOs). He doesn't believe leaving this responsibility up to
transmission companies would be in the best judgment. Moreover, he
said Congress shouldn't "chisel in stone" the standards for RTOs,
but rather they should be allowed to evolve as the electric market
Massey further said H.R. 2944 may interfere with "good
decision-making involving [utility] mergers." Specifically, he
cited the bill's 180-day deadline for FERC to act on utility
mergers, which he believes could prevent the Commission from
conducting thorough analyses of market-power issues. Lastly, he
said the bill failed to give the Commission "direct authority" to
order the mitigation of market-power concerns.