Apparently one or more senators have placed holds on the nomination of Joseph T. Kelliher for a second term at FERC, a Senate committee spokesman said. The holds prevent the nomination, which has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor.

The identity or identities of the senators is not known, nor their reasons for placing the holds. These are the "annoying secret holds" that the Senate seeks to eliminate through ethics reform legislation that it approved prior to leaving for its August recess, said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the energy committee. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation, which would require all existing holds to shed their cloak of secrecy.

Wicker was hard pressed to name any senator who would want to block a vote on Kelliher's nomination. But he added that he was certain it was not his boss, Bingaman. Other Capitol Hill aides and industry sources were in the dark as well.

The likelihood of a hold on Kelliher became apparent when the Senate approved by unanimous consent two nominees to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission prior to the recess, but failed to take similar action on Kelliher.

A senator may place a hold to express his opposition to Kelliher's renomination or to agency policies, or it could be for reasons that are totally unrelated to the nominee or the Federal Enegy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Kelliher's current term as commissioner, which began in November 2003, expired on June 30. Kelliher still can serve at the Commission while awaiting Senate action on his nomination.

The White House in March nominated Kelliher, a Republican, for the second term and to continue as chairman of the agency (see NGI, March 12). The nomination is for a five-year term at the agency that would expire on June 30, 2012.

The Senate energy panel favorably voted out Kelliher's nomination to the full Senate in May. It followed a confirmation hearing in which some committee members expressed concern over FERC's ability to monitor the natural gas market for abuses (see NGI, May 14).

A former Capitol Hill staffer and senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy, Kelliher assumed the reins as FERC chairman in July 2005, taking over from then-Chairman Pat Wood.

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