Obama names LaFleur acting FERC chairman

President Obama appointed Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 25, succeeding Chairman Jon Wellinghoff who had continued to serve since submitting his resignation in May.

LaFleur, who joined FERC in 2010, is a Massachusetts Democrat whose commission term expires in 2014.

“I am honored to lead the commission at a time when the nation is making substantial changes in its energy supply and infrastructure to meet environmental challenges and improve reliability and security,” LaFleur said. “The commission also has important work ahead in implementing Order No. 1000, setting transmission rates, and ensuring competitive markets work fairly and effectively for consumers.”

LaFleur’s nomination comes on the heels of the withdrawal of Obama’s nomination of controversial Colorado consultant Ronald J. Binz to be a member, and chairman, of the commission. Binz withdrew when it became apparent his nomination would receive a negative recommendation from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The panel found objectionable his support of renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels as well as his participation in a lobbying effort on behalf of his own confirmation.

While at FERC, LaFleur has focused attention on strengthening reliability and grid security, promoting regional transmission planning, and supporting a clean and diverse power supply. She has served as FERC’s liaison to the Department of Energy’s Electricity
Advisory Committee, is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ committees on Electricity and Critical Infrastructure, and co-chaired the FERC/Naruc Forum on Reliability and the Environment.

Prior to joining the commission, LaFleur had more than 20 years’ experience as a leader in the electricity and gas industries, retiring in 2007 as executive vice president and acting chief executive of National Grid USA. The former New England Electric System, National Grid USA delivers electricity to 3.4 million customers in the Northeast. LaFleur helped lead the company through several regulatory and corporate transformations.

After retiring from National Grid, LaFleur served as a non-profit board member and leader. She has a doctorate in law from Harvard, was editor of the Harvard Law Review, and worked as a lawyer for Ropes and Gray in Boston from 1978-1986.

Former Chairman Wellinghoff leaves FERC to join the energy law practice of the Oregon-based Stoel Rives LLP law firm. His departure leaves FERC with four remaining members. No more than three members of the same party may serve on the five-member commission.

The other Democrat on the commission is John Norris, whose term expires in 2017. Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller, whose term expires in 2015, and Anthony Clark, whose term expires in 2016.

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