Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said Tuesday he has removed his seven-month “hold” on the nomination of Joseph T. Kelliher for a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

But Kelliher’s problems aren’t over yet. At least one other Democratic senator — Maria Cantwell of Washington — still has a hold on the Republican FERC nominee, which in effect bars the Senate from confirming Kelliher until he addresses her concerns. The nomination of Kelliher, a senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy (DOE), has been in limbo since his confirmation hearing last March, when the formal objections were made by Wyden and Cantwell.

In announcing his decision, Wyden said he received a letter from Kelliher Tuesday in which the FERC nominee showed a “fuller understanding” of the impact of energy market manipulation and FERC’s proposed standard market design on Northwest energy customers. “This communication from Mr. Kelliher reveals that he’s done his homework about energy issues critical to the West in general and the Northwest in particular…I am confident that Mr. Kelliher has reached a better understanding of the particular challenges Northwest ratepayers face.”

The remaining hold on Kelliher also has held up the nomination of New Mexico attorney Suedeen G. Kelly, a Democrat, to FERC. The Senate leadership has signaled it wants to confirm the two as a package deal. So until Kelliher’s nomination is cleared of all constraints, it’s unlikely that Kelly’s nomination will move forward.

Last month, Senate Republican leaders tried to bring the two FERC nominations to the floor for a vote, but it was foiled by the Democrats who had holds on Kelliher’s nomination (see NGI’s Daily Gas Price Index, Sept. 25).

Kelly is seeking to fill the seat vacated by former FERC Chairman Curt Hebert Jr. If confirmed, her term would expire on June 30, 2004. Kelliher is vying for the seat formerly held by Commissioner Linda K. Breathitt. His term would run until June 30, 2007.

©Copyright 2003 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.