KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, January 26, 2009
Almost lost amid President Barack Obama’s stream of appointments was that of Jon Wellinghoff as Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC’s duties include regulating interstate transmission of electricity, watching over the nation’s wholesale electricity markets and also licensing new hydropower projects.
Mr. Wellinghoff — a Democrat who has been one of five FERC commissioners for the last three years, and previously worked in private practice as a lawyer specializing in energy issues — has applauded Mr. Obama’s clean energy goals. His appointment drew praise from environmentalists.
“He’s been a consistent advocate of sustainable energy policies — energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean distributed resources,” said Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council in an e-mail message, “and he has focused on making sure these resources are treated fairly in energy markets (many of which had been notorious for hostility to these relative newcomers).”
One of Mr. Wellinghoff’s roles, according to his biography, has been to advise the NRDC on U.S.-China energy issues.
The previous chairman, Joseph Kelliher, a Republican, was the subject of controversy for his close participation in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2000 Energy Task Force. Mr. Kelliher stepped down earlier this month.
Mr. Wellinghoff helped establish the “Energy Innovations Sector” of FERC, which helps look into and promote new technologies, and he co-authored a paper on how to more effectively regulate hydrokinetic projects.
According to his published biography, he was also the main author of the renewable energy standards established in Nevada — although as Matthew Wald and I have reported, the state has lagged in achieving those standards.
So what will his appointment mean for FERC? Mr. Cavanagh expects the commission to pay more attention to energy efficiency and distributed electricity generation, and that it will “look favorably on initiatives designed to accelerate full integration of renewable resources and energy efficiency into the nation’s portfolio of energy resources.”