FERC's new chairman runs roughshod over a reeling industry.
The defining moment came late in the morning, Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the last meeting of the year for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
That's when the TV cameraman spied former FERC chair Betsy Moler sitting in the audience, and trained his lens on her. As she looked up, she saw her image staring back from the flat-screen monitors scattered about the hearing room. But her shoulders were slumping. The cameraman could not know that the commissioners up at the head table had just stabbed her in the heart.
By a vote of 3-1, the FERC had crowned the Midwest Independent System Operator-MISO-as belle of the ball. In so doing, it scorned the proposed Alliance Regional Transmission Organization-the group to which Moler had devoted so many hours, filing briefs and business plans. So MISO would become the Midwest RTO. For Alliance, there was nothing to do but to go home and soak in a bath of $100 million or more in lost startup costs.
When the meeting broke for lunch, I saw the MISO's leading lawyers, Sheila Hollis and partner Stephen Teichler, leave the room and walk down the hall through the crowd. They were shaking hands and accepting congratulations-like gladiators leaving the arena. Meanwhile, back in the hearing room, FERC senior staffer Kevin Kelly came over to speak quietly with Ms. Moler-perhaps to offer a condolence. He had worked with her back when she was at FERC.
Commissioner Linda Breathitt dissented. She complained how the commission only a year earlier had encouraged Alliance to go forward by issuing conditional approvals. William Massey, however, had voted with the majority. But as a FERC veteran who once served under Moler, he took pains to urge the audience not to blame him for the disaster-he had opposed Alliance from early on, he said.