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Obama Nominates Arkansas PSC Chair to Be FERC Commissioner

President Obama will nominate Colette D. Honorable, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC), to be a commissioner at FERC, the White House said Thursday.

Honorable became a PSC commissioner in 2007 and has been chairman since 2011. She also serves as chairman of the board and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Before going to the PSC, Honorable served as executive director of the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board in 2007 and worked for Arkansas’ then-Attorney General Mike Beebe in various roles, including as his chief of staff. She received a bachelor’s degree from Memphis State University and a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Honorable had been rumored to be a candidate for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for months. Last year, observers believed the odds were high that she was the front runner to take over as head of the Commission as then-Chairman Jon Wellinghoff prepared to step down (see Daily GPI, Oct. 9, 2013). At the time she was considered "very confirmable" by some industry sources.

Obama had initially tapped former Colorado regulator Ron Binz for the position (see Daily GPI, July 1, 2013), but that nomination was met by stiff resistance in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and his name was withdrawn from consideration (see Daily GPI, Oct. 2, 2013). Obama then turned to Norman Bay, current director of FERC's Office of Enforcement (OE) (see Daily GPI, Jan. 31). The Senate eventually confirmed Bay as a commissioner, with Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur to continue to lead FERC as chairman until April 15, when Bay will take over the post (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had wanted Bay to be the next FERC chairman (see Daily GPI, June 18). Reid was reportedly instrumental in the collapse of some of Obama's previous FERC nominations (see Daily GPI, Sept. 17, 2013). But other 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 to be chairman.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Honorable would replace John Norris, who resigned from FERC effective Aug. 20, nearly three years before his current term was due to expire, to become minister-counselor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Rome, Italy. (see Daily GPI, Aug. 8). The administration had at one time considered Norris to become chairman but reconsidered. At the time, Reid was accused by Norris of blocking his appointment because the senator believed Norris was too pro-coal. Reid denied the allegation.

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