Binz with­draws from con­sid­er­a­tion for en­ergy post

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The White House’s nom­i­nee to a top en­ergy post with­drew Mon­day, con­ced­ing de­feat in a fight that had turned into a ma­jor bat­tle over Pres­i­dent Obama’s cli­mate agenda.

Ron Binz, Mr. Obama’s nom­i­nee to be chair­man of the Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion, had faced bi­par­ti­san op­po­si­tion af­ter he made com­ments crit­i­cal of fos­sil fu­els and ap­peared to mis­lead mem­bers of the Se­nate En­ergy Com­mit­tee.

“It is now clear that my nom­i­na­tion will not be re­ported fa­vor­ably,” Mr. Binz wrote to Mr. Obama in a let­ter. “Re­luc­tantly, there­fore, I re­spect­fully re­quest that my name be with­drawn from fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion for this po­si­tion.”

As late as Thurs­day, the White House had pub­licly in­sisted it was still back­ing Mr. Binz, even as the En­ergy Com­mit­tee said it had learned the ad­min­is­tra­tion was search­ing for other can­di­dates to re­place him.

The con­ces­sion is a ma­jor blow to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, whose cur­rent and for­mer staffers — in­clud­ing some who have be­come reg­is­tered lob­by­ists — had been work­ing to get Mr. Binz con­firmed.

In­deed, emails ex­pos­ing Mr. Binz’s work with those lob­by­ists and with a Demo­cratic pub­lic re­la­tions firm helped dent his nom­i­na­tion. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the En­ergy Com­mit­tee, said Mr. Binz had led her to be­lieve he didn’t have a team of lob­by­ists aid­ing him.

In his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in mid-Septem­ber he apol­o­gized for mis­lead­ing her.

In an ef­fort to stem con­cerns over his view of fos­sil fu­els, he also said that dur­ing his term as chair­man of the Colorado Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, he had ap­proved the largest coal-fired power plant in the state’s his­tory. But in fact that power plant was ap­proved sev­eral years be­fore Mr. Binz joined the panel.

His nom­i­na­tion took a hit when all the En­ergy Com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­cans and one Demo­crat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Vir­ginia, said they could not sup­port him.

That left him at best fac­ing a vote to send him to the full Se­nate with a neg­a­tive rec­om­men­da­tion, which would have been dif­fi­cult to sur­mount.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, a Ken­tucky Repub­li­can who had taken a strong stand against Mr. Binz, said the with­drawal was prompted by that bi­par­ti­san op­po­si­tion.

“Given the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hos­til­ity to­ward coal and other fos­sil fu­els and the jobs they cre­ate, the last thing Amer­i­can fam­i­lies need is another reg­u­la­tor who is will­ing to block job growth in the vi­tal field of en­ergy pro­duc­tion,” he said.

He warned Mr. Obama to re­place Mr. Binz’s nom­i­na­tion with some­one who “doesn’t have an anti-en­ergy-job agenda.”

“If they don’t, they can ex­pect another fight,” Mr. McCon­nell.

Democrats had said FERC didn’t have a ma­jor role in the cli­mate change de­bate and that Mr. Binz’s nom­i­na­tion shouldn’t rise or fall along­side Mr. Obama’s views on the en­vi­ron­ment, but many Repub­li­cans dis­agreed.

Ron Binz

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