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Wood's Prospect for Second Term at FERC Questioned

Wood's Prospect for Second Term at FERC Questioned

FERC Chairman Pat Wood on Thursday fielded several questions about whether he expects to be picked by President Bush for a second term when his current term as chairman and commissioner expires in June 2005.

"That's not my choice. That's President Bush's choice," he told reporters following a speech to the Energy Bar Association's Mid-Year Meeting in Washington, DC. "I'm here [until] I'm not here. [I have] no plans other than showing up at work every day. We've got a lot to do."

But others say it's "pretty widely understood" that Wood, even if he is re-nominated by the White House, would not be confirmed by the Senate, where companies rigorously opposed to FERC's push to form regional electric grids have been lobbying heavily against him. "There simply is no way Pat Wood would be re-confirmed" for another term at FERC, a Washington legislative expert said.

No one wants to be quoted on the subject, but it's no secret Wood is "extremely unpopular" on Capitol Hill, particularly among Southern and Northwestern Republican senators, because of his regional transmission organization (RTO) policies, the expert noted.

"With the GOP strengthening, it is hard to see how Wood could be re-confirmed in the Senate," agreed another veteran Washington energy observer. The big anti-RTO guns, such as Entergy Corp. and Southern Co., are against him and have a lot of influence where their interests are concerned on Capitol Hill.

After four years in Washington, Wood may want to return to Texas. "He loves Texas. I don't think he has any driving urge to stay in Washington. He is good friends with Texas Gov. [Rick] Perry, so there might be some job opportunities there," the observer said.

One source believes Commissioner Joseph Kelliher "at least at the start would be considered the most likely" successor to Wood as chairman. But he acknowledged the White House may pick "someone not on the Commission" for the position. Bush has a lot of campaign debts to pay off, so right now he'll be working on "who do I owe for this one."

The Commission could have a whole new look next year, the sources agreed. Commissioner Nora M. Brownell would not likely be considered as a candidate for chairman because she's "too linked to Wood," having strongly supported his electric RTO initiatives. Both she and Wood "are on borrowed time." Brownell's term as commissioner expires in June 2006. "You wonder whether Nora Brownell will [even] want to stay around."

Both Wood and Brownell came to FERC in May 2001. Wood had been chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission. He was appointed to the PUC in 1995 by then-Gov. George W. Bush. Brownell was a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

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