The White House is looking at two prominent female state commissioners to succeed Commissioner Suedeen Kelly at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), according to a Washington, DC, source.

The two potential nominees include Colette D. Honorable, a member of the Arkansas Public Service Commission since October 2007; and Lauren Azar, a member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission since March 2007.

After six years at FERC Kelly participated in her last monthly agency meeting last Thursday (Dec. 17). President Obama nominated her for a third term in March (see Daily GPI, March 23), but Kelly declined the nomination. She agreed to stay on at FERC until the end of the current congressional session.

The nomination of former Iowa utility regulator John Norris to FERC has been hung up in the Senate since early October by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Until a hydro issue is resolved in her state, Snowe has vowed to block his nomination if it is brought to the Senate floor for a vote (see Daily GPI, Nov. 13).

With health care reform legislation taking center stage, the Senate is not expected to vote to confirm Norris, a Democrat, until after it returns in January. And action on a successor to Kelly will likely take even longer.

As a result, this would leave the normally five-member FERC with a “bare majority” to conduct business next year, a pipeline official said. “If someone recuses themselves from a case, the Commission won’t have a quorum. It could be an issue,” he said.

At the start of 2010 the Commission will have three members — Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat; Commissioner Philip D. Moeller, a Republican; and Commissioner Marc Spitzer, a Republican. If confirmed by the Senate, Norris, a former board member and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board, would become the fourth Commission member.

Arkansas’ Honorable is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and serves as co-vice chair of the Committee on Gas. She was named one of Arkansas Business‘ “Top 40 Under 40” in 2006 and received the 2007 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Award.

In addition to being a Wisconsin regulator, Azar is president of the Organization of Midwest ISO States (OMS), a nonprofit organization of representatives from each state that is included in the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. She also sits on NARUC’s Electricity Committee and the Nuclear Issues-Waste Disposal Subcommittee.

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