Within days of a Democratic senator releasing her hold on a Republican FERC nominee, the Senate on Friday voted to confirm two new commissioners to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In addition, there were unconfirmed reports the White House may re-nominate sitting Commissioner William Massey to another five-year term. If so, it would be the first time since the summer of 2001 that all five seats on the Commission were filled.

Confirmed were Republican Joseph T. Kelliher, whose nomination had been pending for two years, and Democratic nominee Suedeen Kelly, who was nominated by the White House last March. Kelliher is a senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy (DOE), while Kelly is a New Mexico attorney and former state regulator. A FERC spokeswoman did not know when Kelliher and Kelly would be sworn in.

The Senate vote came quickly after Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) removed her hold on the nomination of Kelliher. The senator had filed a formal objection to his nomination following Kelliher’s confirmation hearing last March.

“I have long supported Joe and Sudeen’s nominations and am pleased that they now will add their experience and perspective to the important work of this Commission,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who pressured the White House to nominate Kelly.

“I am delighted that the long wait is over for him [Kelliher]. He will make an outstanding commissioner,” intoned Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM). Kelly will “serve the public well” also, he said, adding that she has a “solid background in law and energy.”

Massey’s office would not confirm reports about his possible renomination. He was traveling Friday and was not expected to be in his office until Monday, according to a spokesman. The White House has not made any formal announcement yet. Massey’s current term officially ended in June, and he has been serving out a grace period that ends when Congress adjourns for the year.

By confirming Kelliher and Kelly, “the Senate has taken responsible action to ensure that a quorum is maintained” at the Commission, said Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, in a prepared statement. The Commission must have at least three members to conduct business.

“We are also encouraged by reports that the remaining vacancy could possibly be filled through a White House re-nomination of Commission Bill Massey, potentially rounding out an exceptional FERC team,” the producer group said.

Once Kelliher and Kelly are on board, the Commission will be made up of three Republicans (Chairman Pat Wood, Commissioner Nora M. Brownell and Kelliher) and one Democrat (Kelly). If Massey should get a nod from the White House, there would be two Democrats.

Kelly will fill out the remaining term of former FERC Chairman Curt Hebert Jr., who left the Commission in the summer of 2001. That term would expire on June 30, 2004. Kelliher would fill the seat formerly held by Commissioner Linda K. Breathitt, who departed the agency last December. His term would run until June 30, 2007.

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