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Obama nominates Colorado’s Ron Binz to lead energy oversight panel

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Ron Binz

DENVER — President Barack Obama has nominated Ron Binz, the former head of Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission, to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Ron’s nomination is welcome news for Colorado, one of the top natural gas-producing and exporting states in the nation,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, said. “I plan to work with my colleagues to ensure he is confirmed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission so that it can provide strong oversight over our nation’s interstate natural gas pipelines and electrical grids.”

Binz’s nomination to the five-member panel requires Senate confirmation. His nomination is expected to go before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee later this year.

Binz sat on Colorado’s utilities commission from 2007 to 2011 and was the state’s advocate for energy consumers before that.

He now works as a consultant and is affiliated with a Colorado renewable energy institute headed by former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter.

While on the commission, Binz oversaw an effort to give extra utilities extra incentives to close coal-fired plants to reduce air pollution.

As chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he’ll lead an agency that oversees the interstate transmission of electricity, among other issues.

Coloradans of all political persuasions sang Binz’s praises Thursday.

“During my years as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, there were times I called on the Public Utilities Commission to be involved in policy issues and legislation so that the public interest was served,” said former statehouse Speaker Lola Spradley, R-Beulah.

“As Chair of the PUC, Ron’s expertise and leadership proved critical to advance a balanced approach in Colorado.  He will be an excellent addition to FERC.”

Energy executives also lauded Binz.

“The nomination of Ron Binz as FERC Chairman is a strong choice in this time of change for the utility industry,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy Inc. “His understanding of the regulatory process makes him uniquely qualified to address the diverse set of issues facing utilities in the U.S., from grid modernization to carbon regulation.

“In Colorado, Binz demonstrated his leadership with foresight and a willingness to evolve regulatory compacts to deliver pragmatic solutions. His broad level of experience will be an asset to addressing these industry issues, and we are looking forward to working with him in this new position.”

“The electric industry is experiencing rapid change and technological advances and Ron Binz is a strong and timely choice to lead FERC,” said Ralph Izzo, chairman of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG), a major utilities conglomerate. “Ron has both the experience and intellect to hit the ground running and ensure thoughtful consideration of emerging opportunities.

“In Colorado, he showed a willingness to work with diverse groups and elected officials of both parties to develop and implement commonsense legislation.  His work on the Utilities 2020 project, as well as his diverse experience as a regulator, consumer advocate and policy expert will serve the country well as he leads FERC.