Binz: Process leading to decision to withdraw after activism from the political right a ‘pretty sad commentary’

Ron Binz, who was nominated by President Barack Obama as the next FERC chairman but withdrew after what he called “political blood sport in Washington,” told TransmissionHub on Oct. 16 that he is disappointed that he was not able to join the commission and discussed his intention as chairman of sorting out the rate of return debate.

“I’m very disappointed, personally, that I was not able to join the FERC,” he said following his keynote address at the Maryland Clean Energy Summit, hosted by the Maryland Clean Energy Center at University of Maryland University College in Prince George’s County, Md. “I believed then, and I believe now, I have lots to offer, a lot of ideas that would have helped move energy policy forward in this country.”

Of the “political blood sport” Binz, who is the former chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, added: “It’s most unfortunate because I arrived in Washington with a 35-year history in the industry. I know my way around, I know how to listen, I know how to put together consensus ideas and will never get the chance because the political right decided to take me out. So, it’s very disappointing not only for me, but I think it’s a pretty sad commentary.”

Binz continued, “It would be difficult for me to recommend that anybody go through what I went through and there’s many, many qualified people that government needs right now.”

The process is “disconcerting [and] dispiriting,” he said.

Obama appointed Binz in June to succeed current FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who has been with the commission since 2006, and served as chairman since 2009. Wellinghoff submitted in May his letter of resignation to the White House, in advance of his term ending on June 30. Wellinghoff said he would continue to serve in that position until a new chairman was confirmed. However, the grace period for chairman and commissioners to stay in posts that have passed the end of their appointment ends when the Congressional session expires.

As TransmissionHub also reported, how long it will take the White House to announce the next nominee is a matter of speculation, with some saying the government shutdown will take priority until it is resolved.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Binz addressed questions on how his views on coal, natural gas and renewable energy would influence his leadership of FERC if successfully confirmed as chairman.

Binz told TransmissionHub that one of the issues he had hoped to work on as FERC chairman was the rate of return debate, saying he would have brought some components of performance-based regulation to FERC’s regulation of transmission and guidelines.

“I think the FERC is often mired in these debates about rate of return,” he said. “I think that’s the wrong focus. I think that we would be much better served if entities were able to earn a return commensurate with their levels of innovation and diligence.”

He also said he had many ideas for the organized markets that deserve exploration.

“I’m hoping that the FERC continues along the path of doing that because we’ve put two-thirds of electric sales in the country now in these organized markets and we owe it to consumers to make sure those markets actually deliver the results we want,” he said. “I think some tweaks – or maybe major tweaks – are needed into those markets and, again, that’s something which I had hoped to take a leadership role in at FERC.”

Another issue is the implementation of FERC Order 1000, which Binz said is “probably the most significant order to come out of the FERC in a number of years. It will be given meaning by its implementation and I think that that’s another large assignment for those regulators. I wish them all the best in getting there.”

Next steps

On what is next, Binz said he has reestablished his consulting practice, based in Colorado.

“As you can see today, I actually filled in for Jon Wellinghoff as a speaker,” he said in reference to Wellinghoff being the summit’s scheduled keynote speaker on Oct. 16.

“Today, in my speech, I made the joke that the last time I tried to substitute for Wellinghoff wasn’t so successful – I think today was a little more successful,” he said with a laugh.

His consulting practice is focusing on smart grid issues, as well as clean technology and green technology, with international and U.S. clients, Binz said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3160 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.