Uncertainties about leadership at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were resolved on Tuesday, as the U.S. Senate voted separately to confirm Norman Bay as chair and Cheryl LaFleur to a second term at the regulatory body.
The Senate approved Bay’s nomination by a 52–45 vote, despite claims by Republicans and some Democrats who say he lacks the experience and background in energy policy to lead FERC.
Bay is the current director of FERC’s Office of Enforcement, a position he has held since 2009. Prior to this, Bay has been a professor of law at the University of New Mexico, and a U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico.
On Tuesday, lawmakers also confirmed LaFleur, who has been FERC’s acting chair since November 2013, by a 90–7 vote. But a deal between the White House and Senate lawmakers made in June to resolve a lengthy stalemate regarding FERC’s leadership will allow LaFleur to serve as acting chair for another nine months, and then to continue her term as commissioner until 2019.
That means Norman Bay will likely take over FERC’s reigns around April 15, 2015.
Bay’s nomination marks President Obama’s second attempt to propose a replacement for former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff, after the nomination of Ron Binz fell flat last year.
Last November, the Senate approved a measure that ends the minority party’s ability to filibuster some executive and judicial branch nominees, allowing it to vote them in with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes.
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)