WASHINGTON -- More than a dozen conservative groups are taking aim at President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz. In a letter sent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Monday morning, the groups called his nomination "very troubling" and urged senators to vote against confirmation.
The Koch-backed American Energy Alliance, which has been a vocal critic of Binz, is leading the effort. The letter was also signed by Americans for Prosperity, another group funded by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch; the Competitive Enterprise Institute; the National Taxpayers Union; and 10 other groups. They argue that Binz as FERC chairman would seek to disadvantage coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels and would promote the Obama administration's efforts on climate change and renewable energy.
The committee hearing on Binz's nomination is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Binz previously served as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, where he was seen as an advocate of renewable energy. Obama's decision to nominate him to the top spot at FERC, which regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil, has generated an unprecedented amount of attention for what is typically an obscure federal commission. The Wall Street Journal has published not one, not two, but three op-eds blasting the Binz nomination.
Tuesday's confirmation hearing is expected to be tough, with at least one Democrat on the committee, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), likely to vote against the nominee.
The backlash to Binz's nomination has been so strong that renewable energy advocates hired a public relations firm to help shape his image. But that, too, has become a subject of controversy. Last week The Washington Times published emails between staffers from the group funding the PR effort, Binz and FERC employees and suggested that the emails showed inappropriate coordination.
Binz's opponents want to make him "the Susan Rice of the energy world," said Ben Cole, a spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, referring to Obama's current national security adviser who withdrew from consideration as a nominee for secretary of state last December amid conservative criticism.
"I don't think this is a fight the president saw coming, but he's got it," said Cole. "We're going to pull out all the stops and try to make sure this thing dies in committee."