Enforcement experience and a prior Senate confirmation are features of President Obama’s choice to replace Jon Wellinghoff as a FERC Commissioner and Chairman. Norman Bay, the nominee, currently serves as the Director of the Office of Enforcement at FERC and was previously the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, having been nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 2000. Bay is a graduate of Harvard Law School and previously a professor of law at the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Upon confirmation by the Senate, Bay will replace John Wellinghoff, whose experience prior to his role on the Commission involved private energy practice in Nevada where he became associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Wellinghoff had also been involved as a consumer advocate for representing the interests of public utility customers before the Nevada Public Utility Commission.
With his prosecutorial and FERC enforcement experience, some may read Bay’s nomination as a “get tough” signal to the industry. On the other hand, the President’s previous nominee, Ron Binz, former chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, withdrew his name from consideration after coming under fire due to a perception of being too favorably inclined toward renewable energy generation. Thus the fact that Bay previously survived a Senate nomination process may simply signal that the President is not looking for a fight over energy priorities at this point in his second term.