Ex-FERC commissioners defend nominee Binz

Democratic committee staffers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the FERC nomination, circulated the letter Friday, underscoring the attention Binz is getting in what could turn out to be a contentious confirmation process.

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Binz, who once led the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, has taken heat from conservative groups who oppose his nomination.

They have questions regarding ethical issues during his tenure in Colorado, because of a travel reimbursement he accepted for a speaking engagement. He was later found to have violated ethics rules by a state commission, but did not "breach the public trust" because he didn't personally benefit from the transaction.

The mining industry in that state has also feuded with Binz over emissions rules for coal-fired power plants that he worked on while in office.

The ex-FERC commissioners argued Binz and the utility commission acted within their regulatory authority in crafting the rules, which they said intended to accommodate expected federal rules on power plant greenhouse gas emissions.

His experience with that matter, they contended, makes Binz suited to handle the FERC role, given the looming federal power plant emissions rules called for in Obama's climate agenda.

“The electric and gas industry faces large economic and environmental pressures. We need talented, thoughtful regulators protecting consumers and ensuring adequate energy infrastructure is built,” the former commissioners said.