Kelliher succeeds Wood as FERC chairman

July 1, 2005
US President George W. Bush has named Joseph T. Kelliher to replace Patrick H. Wood as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, July 1 -- US President George W. Bush has named Joseph T. Kelliher to replace Patrick H. Wood as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Kelliher, who has been a member of the commission since Nov. 20, 2003, previously served as senior energy advisor to Department of Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham and as part of the transition team following Bush's election to his first term in 2000.

More of his background is in electricity than in oil and gas. Citing a federal court ruling from more than 30 years ago that FERC's main task is to safeguard consumers from exploitation by noncompetitive electricity suppliers, Kelliher said following Bush's announcement, "Our task remains the same: protecting wholesale power and transmission customers from unjust and unreasonable rates, and from undue discrimination and preference.

"The commission has many other important responsibilities involving natural gas, hydropower, and oil pipeline rate regulation," he continued. "I look forward to continuing my relationship with my colleagues, Commissioners Nora Brownell and Suedeen Kelly, to ensure the commission is a fair but firm regulator."

Kelliher has worked on energy issues for more than 20 years. He was majority counsel to the House Commerce Committee from 1995 to 2000, where he was responsible for electricity and other energy legislation; an employee of the American Nuclear Energy Council in the late 1980s, and a staff member in the office of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) in the mid-1980s.

Now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton said that Kelliher "has extensive experience working with Congress, and his selection as FERC chairman ensures a smooth transition from outgoing chairman Pat Wood. . .."

Barton added, "Throughout his career, Joe has exemplified the fairness and honesty that we need of someone in such a crucial position. He will be an excellent chairman for an important industry."

Barton's Senate counterpart, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), also expressed his approval of Kelliher's appointment, calling him "knowledgeable and judicious."

Domenici said, "He has a thorough understanding of utility law. He appreciates the complexity and diversity of regional electricity markets. He has already drawn on past Hill experience to develop a strong working relationship with Congress."

Gas industry associations also applauded Bush's choice to succeed Wood, who is returning to Texas after 3 years at FERC's helm. "During the 18 months of his tenure with the commission, we have found [Kelliher] to be a fair and open-minded regulator," American Gas Association Pres. David Parker said.

Donald F. Santa Jr., president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said, "He's exceptionally well-qualified, not only from his experience on the Hill and at DOE, but also from having been a commissioner at FERC all these months. I expect him to hit the ground running, and wish him the best."

Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, called Kelliher "a choice that will allow for enhanced market efficiencies, as well as new supply resources and infrastructure." He added, "He is a natural successor to pick up where Chairman Wood left off."

Kelliher said that one of his first orders of business as FERC chairman would be "to help the president get an energy bill that will prevent market manipulation and exercise of market power, increase investment in our electricity infrastructure and assure adequate electricity and natural gas supply."

Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].