UPDATE 1-Obama taps Ron Binz to lead energy regulatory body

Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:15pm EDT
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By Ros Krasny

WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has tapped renewable energy advocate Ron Binz as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that has made headlines in the past year with tough enforcement actions against Wall Street banks.

Binz, a Democrat, was named as a commissioner of the regulator and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate would be designated as chairman, the White House said. He would succeed Jon Wellinghoff, who announced his resignation in May.

Binz was chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission from 2007 to 2011, and now runs Public Policy Consulting, a regulatory consulting practice.

He is also a policy advisor with the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, a privately funded initiative to support clean energy. He is a former president of the Competition Policy Institute, a non-profit group devoted to boosting competition in energy and telecommunications markets.

Binz's time at the Colorado commission was marked by battles with Republican state legislators and mining interests when the commission encouraged the state's largest utility to close coal-fired plants near Denver.

The Colorado Mining Association, an industry group, clashed with Binz in 2010 over what it termed the appearance of bias in the commission's treatment of coal plants and efforts to promote new plants that would run on natural gas.

FERC, which has about 1,500 employees, regulates elements of the U.S. natural gas, electricity, oil and hydropower industries.   Continued...