Friday, September 25, 2009

FERC Commissioner Kelly Quitting: Who Will Take Her Place?

President Obama reappointed FERC Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, but she has now announced that she will be stepping down, creating a vacancy. According to Dow Jones:
It is time for me to move on and pursue opportunities to advance these objectives in the private sector," Kelly said in a statement.

The Senate has still yet to confirm another FERC nominee, John Norris. If the Senate fails to confirm Norris and replace Kelly before it adjourns, it will have only three commissioners sitting: two Republican and one Democrat.

FERC spokeswoman Mary O'Driscoll said the agency could still function with three of five commissioners.
All sitting FERC commissioners are electricity deregulation and market rate enthusiasts initially appointed by former President Bush, some of whom (Kelly and Wellinghoff) were renominated by President Obama when their terms ended. See Wellinghoff Designated Chairman of FERC by President Obama, PULP Network, March 25, 2009.

None of the sitting Commissioners is from the 15 "restructured" states that embraced deregulation of the electricity generation sector by allowing utilities to form large holding companies and divest power plants, requiring energy to be bought at "market-based" rates, Those rates, under federal jurisdiction, were effectively administratively deregulated by FERC without congressional action to change longstanding filed rate regulation laws and without adequate consumer protection.

Those states, including New York, are now highly dependent on flawed FERC-approved spot markets for trading deregulated wholesale electricity, such as those run by the NYISO. Their electricity prices have risen higher than those of the majority of states that kept their utilities' power generation under state regulation and did not allow it to be divested to new wholesale merchant power companies under FERC jurisdiction.

It is time for the President to nominate a new Commissioner to serve at FERC with less allegiance to utilities and deregulation dogma and more commitment to protection of consumers, which is the primary purpose of the agency.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has voted to confirm FERC nominee John Norris. See Embattled Mining Pick Given 'Benefit of the Doubt' by Senate Panel, October 8, 2009.

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