(Adds details of objections to Bay, background on LaFleur,
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, June 18 The U.S. Senate Energy
Committee voted on Wednesday to advance the nominations of
Norman Bay to be a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission and Cheryl LaFleur for a second term as commissioner
at the utility agency.
After a contentious hearing, Bay's nomination was approved
by a 13-9 vote. The nomination of LaFleur, currently the acting
chair, advanced by a 21-1 vote.
President Barack Obama has said he intends to elevate Bay,
who joined FERC in 2009 as head of its enforcement division, to
chairman once he is confirmed by the Senate.
Most Republicans voted against Bay, taking their lead from
Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, her party's senior member on the panel.
It is unclear when the full Senate will consider the
nominations for FERC, which regulates elements of the U.S.
natural gas, electricity, oil and hydropower industries,
including the reliability of the electricity grid.
Bay is a former federal prosecutor and law professor at the
University of New Mexico. At FERC, he has led investigations
into energy trading practices at major Wall Street banks.
Murkowski has pushed hard for LaFleur, with a deep
background in utility regulation, to be named to the top job at
FERC, which she has held on an acting basis since November.
Bay "is clearly a learned man, but does he have the
experience in the energy policy and regulatory policy that FERC
deals with on a day-to-day basis? I haven't been convinced,"
Murkowski said. I'm not interested in someone in charge of FERC
doing on-the-job training,"
Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said he
understood the White House would retain LaFleur as acting chair
for nine months before Bay took over.
But Murkowski said she had not received that assurance from
LaFleur was first nominated to FERC by Obama in 2010 after
two decades in the electric and natural gas industries,
including a spell as acting chief executive of National Grid
USA. Her FERC term expires this month.
The agency has been without a permanent head since Jon
Wellinghoff departed in November.
Obama's first choice as replacement, Colorado regulator Ron
Binz, withdrew from consideration in October after it became
clear his nomination was unlikely to clear the energy panel.
Binz was criticized by some conservative groups as favoring
renewable energy sources like wind over coal and natural gas.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Susan Heavey and Peter