Wood, Brownell Nominations Sent to Senate

The White House last week forwarded to Capitol Hill the nominations of Texas regulator Patrick Wood III and Pennsylvania regulator Nora M. Brownell to sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The action came about one month after President Bush announced his plans to nominate Wood, current chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, and Brownell of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Public to fill the two vacant commissioner spots at FERC.

Both candidates were at the Commission headquarters last week undergoing a briefing of key issues that will soon confront the prospective federal regulators.

"We have not scheduled hearings yet" on either nomination, but it's safe to say they will be held sometime during this month, said Joe Brenckle, spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Neither FERC candidate is expected to encounter much resistance during their Senate confirmation hearings.

If Brownell and Wood are confirmed and sworn in this month, it will mark the first time in more than a year that the Commission will have all five of its seats filled. Also, Republicans will have a three-to-two majority at FERC for the first time since the last Bush administration, in the early 1990s. Chairman Curt Hebert Jr. is the sole Republican on the Commission now.

Wood, who has close ties to President Bush, was appointed to the Texas PUC in 1995 by then-Gov. Bush, and also served on the Bush energy transition team. He has been appointed to a term at FERC that expires on June 30, 2005. Brownell has served on Pennsylvania PUC since April 1997. She was nominated by the White House for the remainder of a five-year term at FERC expiring on June 30 of this year, and for an additional five-year term ending June 30, 2006.

Rumors still are afloat that President Bush may name Wood as chairman of the Commission, replacing current Chairman Hebert, who has held the position since late January. However, there has been no official word from the White House on this yet.

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