Philip Moeller, an outspoken Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announced yesterday that he plans to leave the agency in the coming months, creating an opening expected to be filled by a senior Senate GOP aide.
Moeller's likely replacement is Patrick McCormick, senior counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has deep ties in the energy world. A source familiar with the situation said McCormick would be the nominee.
The move, assuming McCormick is confirmed by the Senate, would place at FERC a top aide to Senate ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as she tries to usher through Congress the first comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill in nearly a decade.
Moeller, first nominated to the agency by President George W. Bush in 2006 and renominated by President Obama in 2010, said he plans to serve the remainder of his term through June 30 -- or until his replacement is confirmed. Moeller also said he has no future plans lined up at this point.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to serve on the Commission every single day since I joined the Commission in July 2006," Moeller said in a statement. "I send thanks to President Bush and President Obama for nominating me, as well as the members of the United States Senate who unanimously confirmed me to both terms."
In recent months, Moeller has warned that time is running out for the agency to provide suggestions to U.S. EPA on its Clean Power Plan, which is expected to be finalized in the coming months (E&ENews PM, May 4). Moeller has joined his Republican colleague on the panel, Tony Clark, in calling for the commission to have a more formal advisory role as the EPA proposal takes shape.
Moeller was born in Chicago and grew up on a ranch near Spokane, Wash. From 1997 through 2000, he served as an energy policy adviser to then-Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), working on electricity policy, electric system reliability, hydropower, energy efficiency, nuclear waste, energy and water appropriations, and other energy legislation.
Before that, Moeller served as the staff coordinator for the Washington State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications. He also headed the Washington, D.C., office of Alliant Energy Corp. and worked in the Washington office of Calpine Corp.
One former Republican member of FERC said McCormick would be a good fit to replace Moeller.
"It's a natural because he's counsel to the committee, he's a qualified guy," said Marc Spitzer, a former FERC commissioner and now a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, who worked with McCormick at Hunton and Williams LLP.
But Spitzer quickly noted that the nomination does have to come out of the White House. Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski, wouldn't comment last night on the rumor of McCormick replacing Moeller.
Murkowski hired McCormick, an energy market lawyer, as the panel's special counsel in 2011 (E&ENews PM, April 26, 2011). He came to the committee from the regulated markets and energy infrastructure practice at Hunton & Williams LLP, and worked as an attorney for FERC.
As a staffer on the committee, McCormick advised lawmakers on issues related to the security, adequacy, reliability and affordability of the nation's energy supply resources and delivery infrastructure. He also worked at other Washington, D.C., law firms and in the law and governmental affairs departments of Potomac Electric Power Co.
McCormick's role was of high interest when Murkwoski voted against supporting Ron Binz, a past Obama nominee to the commission who later stepped back after facing furious backlash from the fossil industry and free-market groups.
Hunton & Williams represented coal giant Peabody Energy Corp. when the company was involved in a controversial case before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and Binz was its chairman (Greenwire, Oct. 25, 2013).
Reporter Nick Juliano contributed.