Commissioner Bay assumes FERC chairmanship

Commissioner Norman C. Bay became chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission April 15 under terms of a compromise that had ensured Senate confirmation of his nomination to the commission last year.

Bay, a Democrat, succeeds Chairman Cheryl LaFleur, also Democrat, who stepped down from the leadership post but retains her commission seat under Bay’s leadership.

“I thank former Chairman Cheryl LaFleur for her leadership at FERC and look forward to working with my colleagues on the commission and staff as we build on the progress of the past to address the challenges of the future,” Bay said.

President Obama last year formally appointed Acting Chairman LaFleur to be FERC chairman and “designated” his first choice, newly confirmed Commissioner Bay, to become chairman effective April 15, 2015.

At that time, then-Chairman Mary Landrieu, D-La., of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Senate a compromise had been reached in which LaFleur would continue to serve as FERC chairman for nine months while Bay, then a FERC staff member, “will train, if you will.” LaFleur had been acting chairman since November 2013 in the wake of the withdrawal of Obama’s previous nomination of controversial Colorado consultant Ronald J. Binz to be a member, and chairman, of the commission.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, then ranking minority member on the Senate Energy committee, had questioned Bay’s lack of experience as a utility regulator and argued that LaFleur should not, in effect, be demoted from the chairmanship. The Senate confirmed Obama’s 2014 renomination of LaFleur and nomination of Bay to be FERC members. The Senate voted 90-7 to confirm LaFleur and 52-45 to confirm Bay.

“This is a time of great change in the energy space, and it is more important than ever that the commission use its authority with respect to infrastructure, markets and reliability to further the public interest,” Bay said upon his assuming the chairman’s seat.

Beginning in July 2009, Bay had been director of FERC’s Office of Enforcement, responsible for protecting energy market consumers from fraud or market manipulation affecting FERC-regulated wholesale natural gas and electric markets. Before joining the commission staff, he was a law professor at the University of New Mexico, teaching criminal law, evidence and constitutional law.

From 2000-2001, Bay was U.S. attorney for New Mexico. From 1989-2000, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia and in New Mexico. Prior to his Justice Department service, he was attorney-adviser in the Office of Legal Adviser at the State Department.

There are three other FERC members. In December, the Senate confirmed Obama’s nomination of Arkansas utility regulator Colette Honorable, a Democrat. Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller, whose term expires in 2015, and Anthony Clark, whose term expires in 2016.

No more than three members of the same party may serve on the five-member commission.

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