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Obama Energy Nominee Withdraws Name in Face of Coal Opposition

Ron Binz / Public Policy Consulting
• October 1, 2013 9:50 am

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Ron Binz, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has withdrawn from contention in the face of intense opposition from critics who say he would stridently oppose cheap coal-fired power.

"The fall of the former Colorado utility regulator Ron Binz is a stunning setback for the president, who has succeeded in winning Senate confirmations for far more controversial nominees at EPA, the Pentagon and the Labor Department," Politico reported on Tuesday.

Industry groups hailed the move as a rebuke of Democrats’ "anti-coal, anti-natural gas agenda," in the words of the American Energy Alliance.

"Ron Binz was the wrong nominee at the worst possible time for American consumers. His record of radical advocacy and regulatory bias was too much to overcome, even for Harry Reid's rubber-stamp Senate," AEA president Thomas Pyle said in an emailed statement.

"Binz’s nomination drew an unusual flurry of circumstances," Politico noted.

Unlike many past nominees for FERC, he wasn’t paired with a nominee from the other party to ensure a smoother confirmation. Some critics found it odd that Obama chose an outsider to chair FERC rather than elevate a sitting commissioner. Backs also stiffened on the news that an environmental organization hired a public relations firm to help Binz’s nomination — a level of political maneuvering not previously seen at the independent regulator.

He lost all Republican support on the energy committee within days of testifying last month, in part for his past and perceived policies, and in part because of the strategy on how his nomination was handled.

Critics claimed that Binz’s past work as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission showed an anti-coal bias, and he quickly drew criticism from groups such as the American Energy Alliance and the American Tradition Institute. Eventually, the issue prompted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to announce his opposition to Binz, a move that would have led to a tie vote on the nomination in the committee.