Washington Lawyer Eyed To Lead Producer Group

Washington attorney Katherine B. Edwards is among the candidates being eyed by the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) to succeed former President Nicholas J. Bush, who departed the trade group last month amid allegations that he defrauded it of more than $2.4 million, sources say.

Edwards is well known for her representation at FERC of major natural gas producers, such as Exxon, Shell and BP Amoco. Others being considered for the NGSA post include a "couple" of unidentified former FERC commissioners, another Washington lawyer 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.

Former Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler, who is now a partner in the Washington law firm of Vinson and Elkins, also was viewed as a potential successor, but apparently didn't express any interest. "I'm very happy at this law firm," Moler told NGI last week. "Beyond that, I have no comment."

In related news, NGI has learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington D.C. may file criminal charges very soon in connection with the alleged fraud scheme, possibly by the first or second week of April.

Washington insiders agree that snaring Edwards, who has a solid reputation in the natural gas industry, would go a long way towards helping to restore NGSA's name, which was significantly tarnished when it was discovered in late January that Bush allegedly had bilked the association out of millions of dollars over a 12-year period through an elaborate consulting scheme. 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 last week if she had been contacted by NGSA and/or was considering the position, Edwards would only say "no comment." She is a partner in the D.C. law firm of Grammer, Kissel, Robbins, Skancke &amp Edwards.

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." Susan Parker

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