Chairman-designate Pat Wood III is looking for a few good energy executives to interpret for him and his FERC colleagues the reams of data that come into the Commission on the natural gas and electricity markets, so they’ll be better equipped to detect when something “smelly” is taking place.

He’s willing to pay maximum salaries of $133,700 — which is what he’ll be making as chairman — for up to 10 executives who are interested in the task. That’s the “top payment” that Congress will allow, Wood noted. He’s also looking to hire an unspecified number of executives at a salary in the $115,000 range. Interested parties should call him directly at (202) 208-0388, Wood said during an interview with NGI last Thursday.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) “actually called me [in July] and asked me what we needed, and I told him that “if you scrummage and look, there’s an additional $6 million bucks [in the Senate for] 10 executive service positions, which were flexibly written out to where I could get…managerial people at GS salary levels” for the Commission.

“We’ve tried like crazy to get people. We can’t compete on dollars…Government never competes on dollars. You’ve got to get people who believe in this thing. There are people who want to do…something good for the greater commonwealth. I’m going to find those people,” he noted, adding that this was a top priority with him.

For interested executives, Wood said, “I’m going to give you the top [salary] I can pay you in the U.S. government, and I’m going to give you a helluva great workload in a critical industry that everybody in America depends on.”

He wants the executives to show him and the other four Commissioners “how it works.” For example, “hedging and derivatives are great words” that are often tossed around, but Wood would like to know more about their roles in energy markets. “All five of us need to know everything about this business.”

Wood acknowledged that the new Market Observation Resource (MOR) Center, which enables FERC to monitor the markets on a real-time basis throughout the day, has been a great addition at the Commission, but he says the agency needs more people to decipher the market data that it generates. “Getting the data is one thing, but having somebody that can assimilate that into something that tells you a story” is critical. “That’s what I’m looking for is the translators.”

He noted that the officials in the Commission’s MOR Center are equipped to analyze the data, but “I think they need some extra troops.”

Wood firmly believes that reported incidents of price manipulation and other market-power abuses will drop as the Commission’s knowledge of the markets grows. “As we get smart on this, they won’t try this stuff,” he said, adding that it will “let them know [that] we’re watching.”

Still, he admits that spotting price manipulation won’t be easy even for a more savvy Commission. “I think it’s hard…even if you’re really good at it.”

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