Obama names LaFleur FERC chairman, ‘designates’ Bay for 2015

President Obama formally appointed Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and “designated” his first choice, newly confirmed Commissioner Norman C. Bay, to become chairman effective April 15, 2015.

Bay was inaugurated commissioner Aug. 4. LaFleur appointed Larry Gasteiger to be acting director of the Office of Enforcement. Gasteiger, who has been serving as deputy enforcement director, succeeds Bay in the director’s post.

The U.S. Senate confirmed July 15 Obama’s 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.

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 “will train, if you will.” LaFleur has been acting chairman since November 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, the ranking minority member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Senate “a weird drama has played out” involving the deal in which the administration would allow LaFleur to continue as chairman for nine months while Bay gained experience as a commissioner. Murkowski had questioned Bay’s lack of experience as a utility regulator and argued that LaFleur should not, in effect, be demoted from the chairmanship. She said if LaFleur is allowed to remain as chairman, there is a question whether she would have full authority or whether Bay would be a “shadow chairman.”

The White House statement Aug. 1 designating the FERC chair arrangement said Obama “has named Cheryl A. LaFleur to serve as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, effective July 30, 2014, and designated Norman C. Bay chairman effective April 15, 2015.”

Upon Bay’s inauguration to the commission, LaFleur named Gasteiger acting enforcement director. Gasteiger has served as deputy director since August 2009. Previously he was director of FERC’s Division of Tariffs and Market Development-East in the Office of Energy Market Regulation.

Gasteiger has held several other jobs at FERC including deputy associate general counsel, legal adviser to former Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher and lawyer in the Solicitor’s Office. Before joining FERC, he was a lawyer in the General Counsel’s Office of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. A graduate of the University Pennsylvania and the Dickinson School of Law, Gasteiger also served as law clerk to U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

There are three other sitting FERC members. The other Democrat on the commission is John Norris, whose term expires in 2017. A published report in July quoted Norris at a power industry conference saying he would not seek another term and that he could not win Senate confirmation because he is too pro-consumer.

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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