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Moler, Edwards Eyed to Lead Foundering NGSA

Moler, Edwards Eyed to Lead Foundering NGSA

Former Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler and Washington attorney Katherine B. Edwards have made the list of candidates being considered by the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) to succeed former President Nicholas J. Bush, who departed last month amid allegations that he defrauded the trade group out of more than $2.4 million, sources say.

Moler, who is now a partner in the Washington law firm of Vinson and Elkins, also has been chair and a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), while Edwards is known for her representation at FERC of major natural gas producers, such as Exxon, Shell and BP Amoco. Also being eyed for the NGSA post are a "couple" of other unidentified former FERC commissioners, another Washington attorney and "what I call recycled oil and gas executives," which include mid- to high-level producer executives who have lost their jobs due to mergers or for other reasons, said a source who requested anonymity.

"I'm not saying necessarily that [any of] these people will take the job. All I can say is they're on the list," he stressed.

Most agree that snaring either Moler or Edwards, both of whom have solid reputations in Washington, would go a long way toward helping to restore NGSA's name, which was significantly tarnished when it was discovered in late January that Bush allegedly had used an elaborate consulting scheme to bilk the association out of millions of dollars over a 12-year period. NGSA filed a civil lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court last month seeking recovery of $2.43 million in missing funds, plus $5 million in punitive damages.

"...[I]n my mind I think there's one very clear choice of who should have the job"-Edwards-because of her strong ties to the producer community, the source noted. She's the "very obvious person," he said, adding "I know [she's] on the list." Edwards "tends to make the other candidates seem somewhat more pale" by comparison. Asked if she was contacted by NGSA and/or was considering the position, Edwards would only say "no comment." She is a partner is the law firm of Grammer, Kissel, Robbins, Skancke & Edwards.

As for Moler, "I get the impression that [NGSA's] members would very much like to have her come on board. But to tell you the truth, I think she has better prospects elsewhere," the source told NGI. He acknowledged Moler is considered an unlikely candidate for a producer-advocacy position. But "in terms of what she did at the Commission while she was chair, [NGSA was] very much in agreement with" her. Like Edwards, Moler gave a "no comment" yesterday.

"I don't know if Moler has been contacted [by NGSA], whether she's turned down the job or if she's giving it some thought," the source noted. Veteran Washington insiders don't believe becoming the next head of NGSA is on Moler's radarscope. Rather, a more likely scenario has her setting her sights on becoming the next energy secretary if the Democrats should win in 2000.

It was not clear who actually was at the top of the association's list of candidates. "Some Houston people," the source said, already "have turned it down" because they didn't want to move to Washington. John Sharp, NGSA's vice president of federal and state affairs and general counsel, has been in charge of the day-to-day operations of the association since Bush's departure, but he reportedly isn't being considered as a successor.

While the selection committee pores over the candidates, most agree on one thing-that NGSA "needs to pick a leader and it needs to do it soon."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington D.C. is continuing an investigation that could culminate in the filing of criminal charges against Bush. "I think that they [criminal charges] will probably come eventually," but prosecutors first "may need resolution of other issues, such as how much the association is actually able to recover" of its missing funds, the source noted. That issue is expected to be resolved in NGSA's civil action against Bush.

Likewise, he believes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is "sitting on the sidelines sort of waiting to get a final appraisal" of what amount, if any, of the missing funds will be returned to the association before deciding whether to take action. If none of the funds are recovered, "I would expect that the IRS will then bring criminal charges," the source said. On the other hand, Bush conceivably could escape tax liability if he's able to pay back the money he's accused of embezzling from NGSA, he noted.

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