Colorado’s Binz Picked as Obama Nominee for FERC

Clean-energy advocate and former Colorado utility regulator Ron Binz has been picked by President Barack Obama to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The White House said in a statement yesterday that Obama intends to nominate Binz, who served as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission from January 2007 until April 2011. He is now a consultant on energy and telecommunications issues.

If confirmed by the Senate, Binz would replace Jon Wellinghoff, the FERC chairman whose term expires June 30.

“In the energy area my focus is on climate, clean tech, integrated resource planning and smart grid,” Binz said on his page on the LinkedIn online professional-networking service. He didn’t return e-mail and phone requests for comment yesterday.

Binz would join an agency that has gained visibility from its policing of energy trading and efforts to secure the electricity distribution network from attacks by computer hackers. Since January 2011, FERC has disclosed 13 probes of alleged market gaming, including investigations of traders for Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“The electric industry is experiencing rapid change and technological advances and Ron Binz is a strong and timely choice to lead FERC,” Ralph Izzo, chief executive officer of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., said in a statement yesterday. “Ron has both the experience and intellect to hit the ground running and ensure thoughtful consideration of emerging opportunities,” he said.

Consumer Advocates

Binz and Wellinghoff, 64, are both former consumer advocates from the Western U.S. who are proponents of clean-energy technologies.

Wellinghoff, a FERC commissioner since 2006 and appointed chairman in 2009, has said he will stay in office until his successor is confirmed.

Binz is now principal at Public Policy Consulting in Denver and a policy adviser for the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He has also served as chairman of the climate policy task force for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which represents state agencies.

As a consultant, Binz’s clients included Tendril Networks Inc., a Boulder, Colorado-based energy management software company; Qwest Communications International Inc., now owned by CenturyLink Inc. of Monroe, Louisiana; the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund; and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Separately, the Senate yesterday confirmed Obama’s nomination of Allison Macfarlane for a full five-year term as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Macfarlane, a geologist and environmental science professor, took over the agency last year following her predecessor’s resignation.

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