FERC Chairman Wellinghoff submits resignation to president

Chairman Jon Wellinghoff has submitted his resignation from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to President Obama.

FERC spokesman Craig Cano told HydroWorld.com May 30 that the White House asked Wellinghoff to continue in office and continue serving as chairman until a successor can be nominated and confirmed by the Senate. Wellinghoff’s term was scheduled to expire June 30.

If a replacement is not immediately named, a departing commissioner may continue to serve until the end of the current congressional session. If no successor is seated in that time, Cano said Wellinghoff would leave the panel, with the president naming an acting chairman from the four remaining members.

Wellinghoff has been a member of the commission since 2006. Obama designated the Nevada Democrat chairman in 2009, succeeding Republican Joseph Kelliher.

During his tenure at FERC, Wellinghoff established an Office of Energy Policy and Innovation to address environmental and energy policies.

“Issues surrounding climate change, renewable resources, energy efficiency, and developing a smart grid are emerging as drivers for energy policy,” Wellinghoff said at the time.

The chairman committed the commission to four fundamental responsibilities: developing needed energy infrastructure; fostering competitive energy markets that produce just and reasonable rates; overseeing reliability standards; and effectively enforcing both market and reliability rules.

Under Wellinghoff’s leadership FERC advanced hydropower in a number of areas including hydrokinetic energy, small hydropower, and pumped-storage as support for variable renewables and grid integrity.

FERC developed a pilot license process in 2008 to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, to determine appropriate sites for such technologies, and to confirm the technologies’ environmental effects without compromising FERC oversight. “FERC’s pilot process is doing what it should: allow for exploration of new renewable technologies while protecting the environment,” Wellinghoff said of the process.

Small hydropower also advanced with FERC-initiated cooperative agreements with other federal agencies and a number of states to advance project development. “The intensified interest in developing renewable energy in this country has made hydropower an increasingly important player in the game,” Wellinghoff said. “Small hydropower development has become a highly desirable option.”

The commission also made available Internet-based tools to help make the small hydropower project licensing process more user-friendly. “These new tools will help provide additional resources to applicants considering developing hydropower.”

Before joining FERC, Wellinghoff was a lawyer in private practice, focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, distributed generation, and the renewable energy portfolio process.

No more than three members of the same party may serve on the five-member commission. The other two Democrats on the commission are John Norris, whose term expires in 2017, and Cheryl LaFleur, whose term expires in 2014. Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller, whose term expires in 2015, and Anthony Clark, whose term expires in 2016.

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