On April 27, 2010, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (“Senate Energy Committee”) considered President Obama’s nomination of Cheryl LeFleur, the former CEO of National Grid’s U.S. electric distribution business, as well as the re-nomination of Commissioner Philip Moeller, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). The full Senate will consider the nomination once the Senate Energy Committee acts. LaFleur is nominated to fill a seat vacated by Suedeen Kelly, who served on the Commission from November 2003 to December 2009 (see March 10, 2010 edition of the WER). If approved, LeFleur’s term will expire on June 30, 2014, and Commissioner Moeller’s new term would expire on June 30, 2015.

Before a brief question and answer session, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) expressed their support for LaFleur. LaFleur previously worked in the Northeast as the former CEO of National Grid’s U.S. electric distribution business. All of the past five nominees have all worked in the West prior to serving at the Commission. Thus, Senators Brown and Shaheen were enthused about a Commissioner who would bring geographic diversity to the Commission in a leadership role. Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray introduced and supported Commissioner Moeller’s re-nomination, noting his experience with hydroelectric power.

During the hearing, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) asked the candidates to address three specific topics: 1) whether the Commission has authority to allocate transmission costs; 2) whether the candidates supported the current natural gas projects in Alaska; and 3) if Commissioner Moeller could give her an update on a reliability study on integrating wind and other renewable energy currently being conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Both candidates said they feel that the Commission does have the authority to allocate transmission costs, but they were also open to more guidance from Congress on the matter. Both also pledged their commitment and support to learn about the pipeline projects in Alaska and their development. Finally, Commissioner Moeller also reported that the reliability analysis is still being conducted and perhaps was delayed because the issues were more extensive than they had anticipated.

While questioning the nominees, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) explained that in his view there has been a policy change where the states’ roles on natural gas pipeline projects have been mitigated and that he has introduced legislation to provide states with a larger role. To that end, he asked each of the nominees if states should have an extended voice in these decisions and if so, how that can be accomplished. Commissioner Moeller answered that states should have an extended role but was unsure how to formulize such a role. LeFleur stated that she was open to the idea of expanding state participation, especially when multiple projects are being considered within a state at the same time.

A full copy of the prepared testimony of Commissioner Moeller and LeFleur is available at:
http://www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/Files/20100427101112-moeller-testimony-04-27-2010.pdf and