President Obama on Friday officially named Cheryl LaFleur to lead FERC as chairman until April 15, 2015, when Norman Bay will take over the post.
Meanwhile, both LaFleur and Bay testified last week before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan and issues with the reliability of the nation's power grid.
Last month, LaFleur received overwhelming support from the U.S. Senate to continue serving as a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (see Daily GPI, July 15). She had been serving as acting chairman of the agency since November, following the departure of Jon Wellinghoff (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21, 2013).
"I am very honored to lead the commission at such an important time for the nation's energy infrastructure and markets," LaFleur said in a statement Friday. "I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the dedicated FERC staff."
LaFleur won Senate approval by a 90-7 vote, but lawmakers -- especially Republicans -- weren't as supportive of Bay's nomination. Many alleged that Bay, who served as director of enforcement and led some high-powered investigations of traders, wasn't qualified for the post. But Bay still passed the Senate's muster, 52-45.
Despite the dustup over Bay's qualifications, Obama promised last June to designate Bay as FERC chairman after he was confirmed (see Daily GPI, June 18). Bay was sworn in Monday, the same day LaFleur named Larry Gasteiger as acting director for the office of enforcement.
On July 29, LaFleur told the House subcommittee, part of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, that maintaining the reliability of the nation's power grid has been one of her top priorities at FERC.
"EPA is, of course, responsible for promulgating environmental regulations under the statutes it implements," LaFleur said, according to written testimony. "However, FERC can and should help the EPA understand the implications that such regulations may have on electric reliability and support utility compliance with those regulations where necessary and to the extent possible.
"Importantly, the Commission's work related to EPA regulations is not limited to interactions with EPA, but also includes collaboration with states, industry, and other stakeholders to evaluate how those regulations will impact the industries that FERC regulates."
LaFleur cited collaboration among FERC, the EPA, state regulators and others over the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. Many believe that EPA adoption of the Clean Power Plan would give natural gas a significant boost for power generation, at the expense of coal (see Daily GPI, June 3).
"In light of EPA's proposal to rely on increased capacity factors for natural gas fired generation resources, gas pipeline adequacy should be considered from a regional perspective, not just a national perspective, due to existing constraints on the system," LaFleur said.
Besides LaFleur and Bay, the other FERC commissioners are Phillip Moeller, John Norris and Tony Clark.