Senate panel questions FERC nominee Honorable

Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed support of Arkansas utility regulator Colette Honorable Dec. 4 in a confirmation hearing on her nomination to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

President Obama nominated Honorable, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, to FERC Aug. 28 to succeed Commissioner John Norris who announced his resignation Aug. 7. However, plans for her confirmation hearing were delayed in September due to the death of the nominee’s husband, Rickey Earl Honorable, 46, an Arkansas banker, who died Sept. 7.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, spoke favorably of the experience of Honorable, a Democrat, who also is president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Murkowski and several other senators asked and received assurances from Honorable that the nominee would work to ensure that impending Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at restricting use of coal for power generation will not threaten power system reliability and boost energy prices.

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., urged Honorable to ensure that hydropower prices in the Pacific Northwest are not driven up by a distortion of rates by regional transmission organizations.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Honorable was the first administration nominee he had seen with the actual regulatory experience to perform the FERC job.

Honorable previously served as executive director of the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board, chief of staff to then-Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe, and assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Mark Pryor. A University of Arkansas at Little Rock law school graduate, Honorable also was assistant city attorney in North Little Rock, an assistant public defender, a law clerk for the Arkansas Court of Appeals and a staff lawyer for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.

Norris, a Democrat whose term was to expire in 2017, said he was leaving FERC to take a post with the U.S. Agriculture Department in Italy. Norris’ resignation came on the heels of Obama’s formal appointment of Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be FERC chairman and Obama’s designation of his first choice, newly confirmed Commissioner Norman C. Bay, to become chairman effective April 15, 2015.

Prior to her nomination to fill Norris’ seat, Honorable’s name was raised last year after an earlier Obama choice for FERC chairman, Ronald Binz, withdrew his nomination in the face of Senate opposition.

LaFleur and Bay are the other two Democrats on the five-member commission. Commissioners Anthony Clark and Philip Moeller are Republicans.

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