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Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham Resigns

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham Resigns

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham last week turned in his resignation to President Bush, saying he will stay on until his successor has been installed.

Abraham sent a letter Nov. 14 to the White House commending the president on his leadership on energy and on his re-election. The secretary noted the heavy demands of public life and said he needed to spend more time with his three elementary age children.

Abraham's planned departure does not come as a surprise to the energy industry. "I know he wanted to leave" the Department of Energy (DOE), said a legislative affairs source for the natural gas industry. It's been no secret that Abraham wanted either to be secretary of the Department of Transportation or to return to the private sector.

The legislative expert gave Abraham, a former senator from Michigan, a "C+" for his four years in office, saying he "was not familiar with the issues of the department, and was not a very effective advocate of energy issues." Energy policy under Abraham's regime was a "tangential issue."

Some consider the title of energy secretary a misnomer since much of DOE focuses on the nuclear area, including nuclear defense projects. Also, with its emphasis on maintaining diplomatic ties and serving as a go-between for the U.S. energy interests abroad, the energy secretary's job includes a lot of foreign travel.

High on the short list to replace Abraham is deputy energy secretary Kyle McSlarrow, the legislative source said. Retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) also is being rumored as a possible successor, some observers said.

Published reports also mention FERC Chairman Pat Wood, Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn, Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and Akin Gump partner Jim Langdon.

Wood on Thursday told reporters that he is flattered that his name has been mentioned as a possible successor to Abraham, but also noted that he still has plenty of work on his plate at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

"I am real happy with this -- as you hear, we have quite a full agenda ahead," Wood said in reference to his current responsibilities at the Commission. "It's flattering, but that's about it. It's flattering, and I'll leave it at that," Wood said.

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