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Hebert Talks to Bush Team about FERC Transition

Hebert Talks to Bush Team about FERC Transition

With the Supreme Court last week effectively handing the keys to the White House to now President-elect George W. Bush, speculation has escalated in Washington D.C. over who will be tapped as the next FERC chairman under a Republican administration.

Commissioner Curt Hebert Jr., the sole Republican among the four current Commission members, has been quite candid over the past months about his aspirations to succeed current Chairman James J. Hoecker. "If George Bush is looking for someone.I know that I'll be here and I'll work hard," he told NGI last week. Asked what he thought his chances of becoming chairman were, Hebert said, "I think you'd have to ask President-elect Bush that."

Others who are being mentioned as candidates include Pat Wood III, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, and former FERC Commissioner Vicky Bailey, who now is president of PSI Energy in Indiana, a subsidiary of Cinergy Corp. The Commission could be down to three members by the time the new president is inaugurated. Bailey's seat on the five-member Commission is still open and current Chairman James Hoecker's seat also would be available if he is not soon nominated for another term. His term and grace period expire with the current Congress.

"We've heard that" Wood's name is being floated for FERC chairman, "although we've also heard it for the Federal Communications Commission," said PUC spokesman Terry Hadley. Despite reports to the contrary, he noted that Wood is "not necessarily" more interested in the FCC than FERC. "I certainly wouldn't characterize one area being more interesting to Pat than the other.he hasn't come out to lobby for any one position" But Hadley hinted Wood might be better suited for FERC since "lately he's been spending more time working through electric restructuring issues."

He said he wasn't aware of any contact between Wood and the Bush transition team. "I suspect it would be awhile before any appointed positions below cabinet level finally get to the selection process." Bailey was on vacation last week, and could not be reached for comment. However, sources indicate she has little interest in returning to FERC.

Hebert, who has close ties to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), said he already has been in contact with "people on the Bush team" in Austin, TX. In fact, "we've been working with the Bush team before anyone was running against him in the primary or otherwise. We continue to have those conversations, and are comfortable moving towards the transition."

Looking to the future, he noted, "I think it's important that we hit the ground running on Jan. 20, and get things moving continually in the right direction. There's a lot of work to be done here at FERC." Hebert dismissed reports that he might leave the Commission if Bush ultimately selects someone else to head up FERC over the next four years.

Susan Parker

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