Report: FERC nominee too much of a greenie for key energy post

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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President Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being slammed as an overzealous regulator who promotes green energy at the expense of the coal industry, according to a new report.

Ron Binz was also described as someone who “unabashedly gives priority to social engineering over minimizing ratepayer costs.”  (RELATED: Machin: Obama is beating the ‘living crap’ out of coal country)

On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee vetted Binz, the former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Binz’s nomination to head the agency that regulates the country’s energy industry has raised eyebrows in his home state.

The report, jointly released the Independence Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says Binz’s time as chair of the Colorado PUC shows him to prioritize green energy over less expensive and more reliable options.

It says he refused to collaborate with coal producers when crafting energy policy and that he used his position as Colorado’s chief energy regulator to attempt to socially engineer changes in energy consumption.

And it points out that he was found to have violated Colorado ethics rules when he accepted a free trip to Houston paid for by a natural gas company in 2010.

William Yeatman, associate director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the report’s author, is concerned that Binz will use his position as FERC chairman to socialize the expensive cost of transmitting green energy produced by wind and solar hundreds of miles to high-demand energy grids.

“[A] key issue now before FERC is determining who will pay for the transmission lines to transport green energy from remote to urban areas,” the report says. “Under Binz, FERC can be expected to socialize these costs to the maximum extent, such that end-use consumers of renewable energy are subsidized by all ratepayers, even if they don’t actually benefit from the green energy.”

“Binz’s record as Colorado PUC chair makes it clear that he’s a green energy booster,” Yeatman said in a press release. “It’s no wonder why green energy special interests are orchestrating an unprecedented collaboration with Binz to advance his nomination.”

Indeed, environmental groups have hired a Washington, D.C.-based PR firm to help shepherd Binz through the nomination process, an unheard-of strategy.

“I am not convinced your views are compatible with FERC’s mission,” Alasksa Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Binz in the Senate hearing. “You’ve effectively got a shadow team of lobbyists and PR experts that have been helping throughout.”

“I predicted there was going to be a fight,” Binz said, citing the opposition to his nomination that’s been expressed in Colorado.

Some senators on the committee seemed to share the same concerns. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, grilled Binz about his position on coal, a crucial industry in his home state.

“Colorado’s experience with Ron Binz should serve as a warning,” Amy Oliver Cooke, the director of the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute, said in a press release.

“His legacy at the Colorado PUC is littered with controversy including an ethics violation, a scathing state auditor’s report, corporate welfare, and disregard for consumer costs,” she said.

With additional reporting from Washington, D.C.  by Michael Bastasch.

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