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Bush, Senate Energy Committee Betray Consumers with Federal Energy Commission Appointments

March 12, 2003

Bush, Senate Energy Committee Betray Consumers with Federal Energy Commission Appointments

Appointment, Nomination Stack Deck in Favor of Energy Deregulation


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s vote by Senate lawmakers to appoint a top Energy Department analyst to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) only further stacks the deck against state efforts to protect consumers, Public Citizen said today.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the appointment of Joseph T. Kelliher, a Republican, to the five-member commission, which will have one vacancy after Kelliher takes the seat. (The full Senate still must vote on his appointment, but it likely will approve him.) To appease Democrats, Bush has nominated Democrat Suedeen Kelly to fill that vacancy. But Kelly, like Kelliher and the three sitting FERC commissioners, supports the acceleration of electricity deregulation, which will force states to cede rights they have held for a century.

“President Bush and top Senate energy committee members from both parties have sold out consumers by backing two individuals who will not represent their interests,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Kelly is an individual that labor and consumer groups have rejected as inadequate. Bush’s FERC nominees guarantee that states and consumers won’t get a fair hearing at FERC.”

Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee have taken more than $3.1 million from the electric and natural gas industries since 1995. Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) topped the list, receiving more than $340,000. Ranking minority member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) was second, with more than $290,000. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) took more than $285,000, while Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) received more than $235,000 and Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) took more than $215,000.

While both Kelly –a former state utilities regulator in New Mexico who now lobbies for the energy industry – and Kelliher share an interest in advocating increased deregulation, Kelliher, who served as the Energy Department’s liaison to Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force, is unique for his ties to Enron.

Kelliher played a central role in soliciting advice from the energy industry for inclusion in Cheney’s task force report, Public Citizen revealed last month in a letter to the Energy Committee. A lobbyist representing Enron wrote Kelliher about his client’s “dream list,” and many items on that list – including obtaining the administration’s commitment to market-based emissions trading – were adopted as part of the administration’s national energy policy. In addition, lobbyists for the oil and gas industry drafted proposed executive orders that Kelliher passed on the White House. Two months later, the president issued executive orders nearly identical to those the lobbyists sent to Kelliher, public records show.

Enron’s influence extends to Congress. Members of the Senate committee that voted on Kelliher’s appointment have received more than $158,000 in campaign contributions from Enron since 1989. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took more than $30,000 from Enron. Burns received more than $23,000. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) was third, receiving $18,500. Bingaman was fourth, taking more than $14,000, while Domenici took $14,000.

The term on Kelliher’s seat is to expire in June 2007; Kelly’s seat is up in June 2004.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have been compromised by accepting so many cash handouts from the fraudulent company,” said Tyson Slocum, research director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Given the financial support that Enron and the energy industry have given lawmakers, it is no surprise that these committee members are unwilling to challenge a Bush nominee who did favors for an Enron lobbyist.”