President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, is in jeopardy after failing to win key supporters at a confirmation hearing this month and misleading the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about his support for coal-powered energy plants. Binz is obviously feeling the heat from big coal groups which say he favors renewable energy. On September 17 he told the Senate Committee that he approved Colorado’s largest coal power plant, in an attempt to bolster the support of key senators who back fossil fuels. However, the statement was inaccurate. While Binz served as the chairman on the Colorado Public Utility Commission, he wasn’t a member in 2004 when the Comanche 3 power plant was approved. In fact, he wasn’t part of the state’s PUC until 2007, after construction on the plant had already begun.
Binz also lost key support from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who vows to vote against Obama’s nominee. Manchin gave a statement September 18 saying that he won’t support the president’s candidate because Binz prioritizes renewable energy and demonizes coal. Without Manchin’s support, Binz won’t have the full backing from the Democrats, which represent 12 of the 22 members of the Senate committee.
Binz’s chances have gotten even grimmer as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced strong regulations for new power plants September 20. Since President Obama nominated Binz and is a large supporter of renewable energy, Binz is having a hard time convincing those on the Senate committee that he’s not against fossil fuels.
A major part of the problem is that many experts believe the Obama administration’s restrictions will make coal impossible to use. Under the new regulations, coal power plants larger than 850 megawatts can’t release more than 1,000 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour. However, the average coal-fired plant typically produces more than 1,600 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour. Many of the coal industry’s supporters can’t get behind the legislation and could cause an uphill battle as Binz tries to become the chairman of the FERC.
Paul Batistelli freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency, and reducing carbon footprints.