Obama nominates Colo. energy regulator to FERC

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

DENVER (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated the former head of Colorado's Public Utilities Commission to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Ronald Binz sat on Colorado's utilities commission from 2007 to 2011 and helped oversee efforts to reduce Colorado's reliance on coal-fired utility plants and increase the state's use of renewable energy.

He previously served as the state's advocate for energy consumers. He now works as a consultant and is affiliated with a Colorado renewable energy institute headed by former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter.

On the Colorado commission, Binz oversaw implementation of regulations requiring utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy they use to generate electricity. He also was instrumental in a controversial measure that gave utilities extra incentives to close coal-fired plants to reduce air pollution.

His nomination comes as the coal industry and others are criticizing Obama for regulations to reduce carbon emissions, contending the president is waging a "war on coal."

As chairman of the FERC, Binz would lead an agency that oversees the interstate transmission of electricity and natural gas, among other issues. The position requires Senate confirmation.

"The nomination of Ron Binz as FERC Chairman is a strong choice in this time of change for the utility industry," Ben Fowke, chairman of Xcel Energy Inc., said in a statement. "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."