The name of prospective FERC nominee, Joseph T Kelliher, surfaced several times in the energy task force documents that the Department of Energy (DOE) was forced to release last week under court order, which could further spoil his chances of being appointed to the Commission.

One of the documents was an e-mail that the American Petroleum Institute (API) sent last March to Kelliher, who at the time was DOE’s policy adviser proposing language for a presidential directive governing energy regulations, according to The Washington Post. In the e-mail, the API proposed that the Bush administration issue an order that would require federal agencies to consider whether environmental or regulatory actions would cause “inordinate complications in energy production and supply,” it noted.

Last May 18, President Bush issued Executive Order 13211, which contained language that “closely followed” the proposed draft submitted by the API, the Post reported. The resemblance was pointed out by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which had gone to court to compel the DOE to surrender 11,000 pages of task-force documents last Monday. The national environmental group accused the administration of allowing the energy industry to put words in its mouth.

Also among the DOE task-force records was a March 23 e-mail from Southern Co. to Kelliher. An attached document proposed that the Bush administration consider reforming the “EPA’s New Source Review Program” as part of its national energy policy, the Post said. Southern wanted to water down the New Source Review initiatives in the Clean Air Act, which require utilities to invest in pollution-control equipment when making major upgrades to coal-fired power facilities, the NRDC told reporters last week.

Notably, Bush’s energy policy called on the EPA to conduct a 90-day review of the regulations and interpretations of the Clean Air Act, the Post story said. The agency still is in the process of completing the review but is expected release a decision that is favorable to the power industry, and in particular coal-fired power generators. The EPA’s top non-political official resigned last month from the agency over the administration’s effort to weaken pollution restrictions on coal-fired power plants and cut 200 staff positions from EPA’s civil enforcement division (see Power Market Today, March 4).

The White House first announced its intent to nominate Kelliher, now a senior policy adviser at DOE, to FERC last October. But Bush has failed to take the second step in the process — to actually nominate Kelliher and send his nomination to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The reasons for the delay on Kelliher’s nomination has been the source of wide speculation.

Some believe the partisan politics being played in the Senate with presidential nominations, as well as Kelliher’s loose ties to the embattled energy task force, may be the reason the White House has not forwarded Kelliher’s nomination to Capitol Hill (See NGI, March 25). The latest development — where Kelliher is portrayed in e-mails as the go-to man in the administration for the energy industry — may further mar his appointment. While sources admit the Kelliher nomination is troubled, they won’t say it’s dead.

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