WASHINGTON — Ron Binz on Tuesday withdrew his nomination to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calling it quits after a bruising confirmation process that exposed unorthodox methods he used to lobby Senators to approve his confirmation.
The former Colorado utility regulator was nominated by President Barack Obama in June to lead the agency, but reports surfaced last week that controversies surrounding Binz has prompted the president to begin vetting new nominees to replace him.
Binz said in a written statement that he asked the president Monday night to withdraw his name from further consideration.
“I am withdrawing so that the president can move forward with another nominee, allowing the FERC to continue its important work with a full complement of commissioners,” Binz said.
The Colorado Observer reported last month that Binz was under intense scrutiny for disparaging comments he made about the future of natural gas, as well as his dealings with lobbyists and special interest groups to push his confirmation through the Senate.
His record as a regulator in Colorado was also questioned, including his opposition to coal and whether he would use his position to push for the president’s climate change initiative, an issue that is outside of the agency’s prevue.
Dustin Zvonek, Colorado state director of Americans for Prosperity, said after the announcement that Binz’s anti-energy agenda and support of extreme environmental regulations made Binz a poor choice for the job.
“America’s economy is just too frail to have an energy policy that’s managed by rogues and radicals,” Zvonek said.
“We hope the president will make a more responsible choice next time,” Zvonek said.
Zvonek also criticized Colorado’s Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, who supported Binz at his confirmation hearing last month with glowing praise.
“Their job as senators isn’t to rubber-stamp any radical the president puts forward, but to thoroughly vet and question a nominee with the interests of Colorado foremost in mind,” Zvonek said.
“Their failure to do due diligence in this case leaves both senators with green egg on their faces,” Zvonek said.
Although Binz assured lawmakers his new position would have nothing to do with climate change and that he would not use his regulatory powers to advance the president’s agenda, his resignation letter to Obama indicates otherwise.
“Thank you for your support of climate legislation and regulation going back to before 2008 and for your selection of strong leaders for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy,” Binz told Obama in the letter that was obtained by The Colorado Observer.
“Although the FERC does not have a direct role in climate issues, its policies are essential components that allow other policies to work,” Binz said.
Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, said Binz failed to persuade senators he was the right choice for the job.
“Mr. Binz tried to convince Senators that everything he had said and done in the past to make energy more expensive for consumers was misunderstood,” Kish said.
“Fortunately for Americans, his words and deeds caught up with him,” Kish said.
Binz told Politico that his record on coal was “spun and respun” to create a caricature that was not in line with his views on energy.
“It was just a blood sport,” Binz said of his confirmation process.
“I think the implications of this fight are something worth pondering. If this kind of handling of a nomination becomes … the new normal, that’s going to make it a lot more difficult for good energy policy to grow,” Binz told Politico.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the committee tasked with vetting Binz’s confirmation, accused the regulator of misleading her about his role in the unusual public relations campaign to assure his confirmation.
Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, also criticized Binz’s comments that natural gas was a “dead end,” calling the statement “troubling and far outside the mainstream.”
Reports that Binz would be asked to remove his name from consideration surfaced Thursday, after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters “I think he’s gone.”