FERC chairman to leave post in June

/ Source: The Associated Press

Pat Wood, who has been at odds with many members of Congress over opening electric transmission lines to competition, said Wednesday he will leave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when his term as chairman expires in June.

During his four-year tenure, Wood pushed aggressively for increased federal oversight of power lines and for the expansion nationwide of a system where transmission lines are managed by independent regional commissions.

Wood’s determination to push those priorities brought him into conflict with powerful interests, including members of Congress from across the South where entrenched utilities opposed Wood’s idea of sharing transmission systems.

Northwest lawmakers also opposed Wood’s attempt to increase federal involvement in transmission management, arguing that FERC did far too little to protect against price gouging by electricity and natural gas traders during California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis.

President Bush appointed Wood — then chairman of the state Public Utility Commission in Texas — to FERC in June 2001. Wood took over the helm of FERC that September.

Wood told Bush of his resignation plan in a letter on Tuesday.

Given his problems with some members of Congress, it had been widely speculated in energy circles that Wood would leave after his FERC chairmanship expired.

One likely candidate to replace Wood is Joe Kelliher, a former senior policy adviser at the Energy Department who joined the commission last November.

In 2001, Kelliher was the Energy Department’s day-to-day point man with Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force. He previous was an aide to former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham when Abraham was a senator from Michigan.