The race for the vacant Republican seat at FERC is gettingawfully crowded as a third candidate from Capitol Hill has signaledhis interest in the post.

Joseph T. Kelliher, majority counsel for the House CommerceCommittee, has said he wants to be considered for the Commissionspot, according to Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the energy andpower subcommittee. The Texas Republican said he plans to form acoalition to support Kelliher in his effort.

Kelliher joins Nils Johnson, a long-time energy aide of Sen.Larry E. Craig (R-ID), and McLane Layton, legislative aide andlegal counsel on energy issues for Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), both ofwhom have thrown their hats into the ring for the FERC position.The post was vacated last month by ex-Commissioner Vicky Bailey,who left to join Cinergy Corp.

Barton made the announcement last Tuesday during a day-longconference sponsored by The Energy Daily and The Hill publicationsthat addressed “The Outlook for Energy Legislation” this year.

Kelliher’s energy background – both on Capitol Hill and in theenergy industry – dates back to 1985. He has served in his currentcapacity for the past five years, during which time he was the leadcounsel on the electricity restructuring bill that was voted out bythe energy and power subcommittee last year. Prior to that,Kelliher was manager of federal affairs for Public Service Electric& Gas Co. He also worked for the American Nuclear EnergyCouncil and served as a legislative assistant to Rep. Barton, wherehe drafted amendments to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Starting in 1985, Kelliher was director of the House RepublicanEnergy and Environment Task Force for two years, during which hespearheaded a drive to overturn the legislative moratoria onoffshore oil and gas development. He received his law degree fromAmerican University in 1994, and his bachelor of science degreefrom Georgetown University in 1983.

Separately, Barton still is clinging to the hope thatcomprehensive legislation to restructure the electricity industrywill make it to the president’s desk this year. On the House side,”I happen to think the electricity bill [which came out of hissubcommittee] is a possible do” in 2000, he said at the conference.

“If you take what we [did] and massage it some,” Barton noted hebelieves it’s possible to move a House bill as early as thisspring. “The fixings are there. We just have to put it in the ovenand cook it a little.”

But some of Barton’s House colleagues, who also spoke at theconference, weren’t nearly as optimistic. “I don’t see any billthis year because there are so many interest groups slugging itout,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH). He believes it would”take a battle” to get a retail power bill on the House floor in2000.

Rep. Charles Pickering Jr. (R-MS) believes that in the “next fewweeks [the] smoke should clear a little bit,” and then “[we’ll]know what is clear and possible this year.” If it turns out that abroad electricity bill isn’t in the cards in 2000, Pickeringfloated the idea of a stand-alone measure that would address thereliability issue by possibly offering tax incentives forgeneration and transmission.

The “potential for a summer crisis” this year would make theargument for at least moving a reliability piece, he said. Otherenergy-related ornaments could be attached to the reliabilitymeasure, but it “cannot be very many [ornaments],” Pickering noted.”It will have to be a small tree” if it is to get through Congress.

If comprehensive electricity legislation fails this year, Barton— who will be unopposed in next fall’s elections — pledged totake up the banner in the next Congress. In the event thatDemocrats gain control of the House he said he may be the “docileranking” member of the subcommittee. However, if Republicans leadthe House, he could be a “dark-horse candidate” for chairman of theCommerce Committee.

Although a big supporter of comprehensive legislation, FERCCommissioner William Massey said he had several concerns with thebill that came out of the subcommittee, H.R. 2944. Foremost, hecriticized its decision to split transmission jurisdiction betweenthe states and FERC, giving the states authority over transmissionthat’s bundled with retail power transactions and the Commissionauthority over the transmission of unbundled wholesaletransactions. Massey said the “same strand of [lines] should nothave competing masters.”

Also, he was concerned the measure would “weaken” theCommission’s ability to form regional transmission organizations(RTOs). He doesn’t believe leaving this responsibility up totransmission companies would be in the best judgment. Moreover, hesaid Congress shouldn’t “chisel in stone” the standards for RTOs,but rather they should be allowed to evolve as the electric marketgrows.

Massey further said H.R. 2944 may interfere with “gooddecision-making involving [utility] mergers.” Specifically, hecited the bill’s 180-day deadline for FERC to act on utilitymergers, which he believes could prevent the Commission fromconducting thorough analyses of market-power issues. Lastly, hesaid the bill failed to give the Commission “direct authority” toorder the mitigation of market-power concerns.

Susan Parker

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