FERC nominee Binz gives up, withdraws from consideration

President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has bowed out, citing his long odds of advancing in the Senate.

“Last evening I asked the president that my name be withdrawn from further consideration as his nominee to the [FERC]. It appears that my nomination will not be reported favorably by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” Ron Binz said in a statement Tuesday.

Binz's nomination came under attack from Senate Republicans and fossil fuel industry-backed groups, and opposition from West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin made it highly unlikely he could win approval in the Senate’s Energy Committee.

It became clear his nomination was doomed last week when a spokesman for Energy Democrats said the White House was weighing other candidates.

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“I am withdrawing so that the President can move forward with another nominee, allowing the FERC to continue its important work with a full complement of commissioners,” said Binz, who is a former Colorado utility regulator.

The White House did not say who might replace Binz as nominee to lead the commission, which plays a key role regulating power markets, gas pipelines and other areas.

“We are grateful for Ron's willingness to serve and regret that qualified public servants continue to get obstructed by the Senate confirmation process,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

Binz’s opponents alleged he was biased against coal and natural gas, and he failed to make headway with critics at his September confirmation hearing despite his praise for natural gas, defense against allegations of anti-coal decisions in Colorado and Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) efforts to remind critics that Binz would not regulate coal as FERC leader.

In his Monday letter to Obama withdrawing his name, Binz said FERC will have an important role to play in addressing climate change.

“Although the FERC does not have a direct role in climate issues, its policies are essential components that allow other policies to work. Our nation’s move toward clean energy resources will be much slower without a strong commitment at the FERC to enhance investment in energy infrastructure and to ensure that clean energy resources have full access to electricity markets,” Binz wrote.

“It is essential that your next and future appointees to the FERC have that commitment,” he wrote in the letter to Obama.

In his public statement Tuesday, Binz said he'll resume his private-sector work.

“I plan to resume my consulting practice in Colorado, where my focus will remain on reform of regulation, the evolving utility business model, and how to move forward on a clean energy agenda,” Binz said.

—This post was last updated at 11:58 a.m.