Politics

It’s Binz nice knowin’ ya: Obama energy nominee bows out

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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President Obama’s pick for the nation’s top utilities regulator is out of the running after a bipartisan Senate coalition raised concerns that he was anti-coal.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominee Ron Binz announced on Tuesday that he was backing out and that Obama can move forward with another nominee, “allowing the FERC to continue its important work with a full complement of commissioners.”

Binz complained to Politico that the confirmation process “devolved into pretty raw, partisan and sectoral politics” and that his opponents twisted his words and his career in order to make him seem anti-coal.

“I was hardly against those fuels. I believe the science of climate change and I think we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but that’s different from saying I’m anti-coal or anti-gas,” Binz said.

“The caricature that they created had nothing to do with who I am and nothing to do with what I might’ve brought to FERC. It was just a blood sport,” he said.

Binz’s nomination was opposed by Republicans and one Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, preventing the committee from advancing his confirmation.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin came out against Binz’s confirmation because of the former regulator’s actions against the coal industry while in Colorado. Binz led lobbying efforts to pass a green energy bill that shut down six coal plants in the Centennial State and converted them to natural gas plants. The law also intended to move Colorado away from using fossil fuels.

“His approach of demonizing coal and gas has increased electricity costs for consumers,” Manchin said. “I believe Mr. Binz’s record is unacceptable for a FERC Chairman.”

“Stopping the Binz nomination was about more than asingle regulator or a single commission,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the free-market American Energy Alliance. “It was about American consumers and promoting affordable energy solutions for our nation’s ratepayers.”

Binz opponents were also concerned by the unusual support he received from environmental activists, who hired a public relations firm to handle the confirmation process.

“You’ve effectively got a shadow team of lobbyists and PR experts that have been helping throughout,” Alasksa Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Binz in a Senate hearing.

However, conservatives argue that Binz was just the beginning and that the Obama administration would continue to push anti-fossil fuel nominees.

“The Obama Climate Action Plan is about restricting access to America’s vast resources of coal and natural gas, which together supply approximately two-thirds of our nation’s affordable electricity Ron Binz was only a part of that plan, and today’s announcement in no way means that the White House is backing down,” Pyle concluded.

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