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Obama Nominates FERC Enforcement Director to Chair Commission

President Obama on Thursday nominated Norman C. Bay, current director of FERC's Office of Enforcement (OE), to the Commission and to be designated chairman upon appointment by the U.S. Senate.

Bay has headed OE since 2009. He was a professor of law at the University of New Mexico 2002-2009 and served as U.S. Attorney for New Mexico for two years before that.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who resigned last year (see Daily GPI, May 30, 2013), "aggressively advocated on behalf of Bay for a Commission slot," according to Christine Tezak at ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

It was Wellinghoff who brought Bay to OE in 2009, though Bay had no prior energy industry experience (see Daily GPI, June 19, 2009). Since then, Bay has brought several high-profile enforcement actions against and settlements with energy market participants (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21, 2013a).

"His nomination would suggest that the administration favors the FERC's efforts in this area, but we have much to learn about Norm Bay's views regarding other elements of energy policy and the Commission's various jurisdictions," Tezak said in a note Friday.

The new nominee shares a southwestern background with the former chairman. Before joining FERC Wellinghoff had been an energy attorney in Nevada specializing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and distributed generation. He was first appointed to FERC in 2006 and was named Chairman by Obama in 2009.

Bay was an Attorney-Adviser at the United States Department of State from 1988 to 1989 and a Law Clerk for Otto R. Skopil, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1986 to 1987. He received a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Bay will be Obama's second nominee to fill the spot vacated by Wellinghoff. Last year Obama tapped former Colorado regulator Ron Binz for the position (see Daily GPI, July 1, 2013). But the nomination of Binz, a renewable energy and consumer advocate, was met by stiff resistance in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and he withdrew his name from consideration (see Daily GPI, Oct. 2, 2013).

On Friday, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking Republican member on of that committee, said she "has not yet had a chance to fully review the nomination, but it's noteworthy that the President has chosen to elevate to the post of Chairman over clearly qualified commissioners a FERC employee who has not served on the commission.

“It's also curious that the President has for the second time this congress identified someone he believes should jump over sitting commissioners to be Chairman,” spokesman Robert Dillion told NGI.

In November, Obama tapped FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be acting chair of the agency, and prognosticators had seen her as one of the possible successors to Wellinghoff (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21, 2013b).

Speaking at a roundtable of reporters at FERC on Monday, LaFleur expressed her interest in staying with the Commission and having the "Acting" removed from her title. "I would like to be renominated for another term," she said. "I would also like to stay as chairman. Neither of those are up to me."

Bay's nomination for a term expiring June 30, 2018, must be confirmed by the Senate.

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