Democratic News

Sep 17 2013

Wyden: FERC Does Not Pick Energy Winners and Losers

Says Administration Nominees for FERC, Energy Department, Interior are Well-Qualified

Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden applauded a commitment from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominee Ron Binz to work on improving natural gas pipeline permitting, and confirming that FERC has no role in picking energy winners and losers.

“I’ve made it clear, Mr. Binz, that I think tapping the potential of natural gas is a winner for this country,” Wyden said. “You’ve basically told me that you too believe it has significant benefits for consumers, businesses and the environment and you’re going to work actively with us for these kind of win-win, consensus-driven approaches.”

Wyden emphasized that FERC commissioners cannot decide which power plants are built.

“FERC has no authority to regulate coal,” Wyden said. “It has no authority to impose unjust or unreasonable rates or impose discriminatory or preferential charges on coal or coal-generated electricity—that means no backdoor taxes on coal or coal-generated electricity.”

FERC oversees permitting of hydroelectric power, interstate natural gas pipelines and protecting electric ratepayers and natural gas consumers from unjust and unreasonable electric and gas prices. It has also been tasked with protecting electric and gas markets from manipulation and ensuring the reliability of the electric grid.

Binz agreed that if confirmed, he would have no role in choosing whether utilities use coal, natural gas, renewables or any other fuel to generate electricity.

“FERC will not have a direct role in encouraging any particular resource,” Binz said.

Binz also committed to work with Wyden and other committee members on speeding up and improving natural gas pipeline permitting.

“Natural gas, with 50 percent less carbon than other fossil fuels, is giving our consumers and businesses a pricing advantage in a tough global economy,” Wyden said. “Pipelines are key to the infrastructure that gets the gas to market. My hope for future, new pipelines, is America gets a win-win solution, not just more pipelines, but better, new pipelines, that save consumers and businesses money as they save energy, and offer an added boost by emitting less methane.”

The committee also considered the nominations of Michael Connor to serve as deputy secretary of the Interior, and Elizabeth Robinson to be under secretary of Energy.

Wyden asked Connor to continue to work with him to address thorny water resource issues in the Klamath River Basin and said Connor has distinguished himself in his current role as Commissioner of Reclamation.

Mike has demonstrated his integrity, his knowledge, his commitment to public service, and his ability to bring people together and to solve problems,” Wyden said. 

Robinson, who is nominated to oversee the Department of Energy’s administration and human resources functions, as well as the Environmental Management program, said she would work with Energy Committee members to speed up and improve the cleanup of dangerous radioactive waste at the Hanford Site in Washington State.

“I am deeply committed to working on the issues at Hanford both in the short and long-term,” Robinson said.