Bush names Hebert FERC chairman

Washington, D.C. – With California’s power troubles mounting, President George W. Bush moved quickly to name avowed free market advocate Curtis L. Hebert Jr. chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), replacing William Massey, a last minute Clinton administration appointee.

Hebert, the only Republican on the current five-member agency, has argued against too much federal involvement in the California electricity crisis and waged a campaign against price caps, which are favored by California Gov. Gray Davis and a number of other California politicians.

He has served as a commissioner since 1997 and his present term expires in 2004. The former state utility regulator in Mississippi, Hebert endorsed electricity deregulation and letting market forces determine prices and electricity supplies.

As FERC chairman, he said in a statement, “I will do my utmost to see that competition is encouraged, that it is fair, that consumers have a genuine choice, and that the public interest is safeguarded.”‘ The free enterprise system “is part of the solution rather than part of the problem for the malfunctioning markets on the West Coast,” he said.

Hebert served in the Mississippi House from 1987-1992, where he was chairman of the House Oil and Gas Committee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He served as chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) from 1994-1996.

During his PSC tenure, Hebert was president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and served on the executive and electricity committees for the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners.

Hebert will be at the helm when FERC hears proposals from utilities and power generators on how to monitor California’s electricity market and ensure wholesale power is priced fairly. They are not intended to be a quick solution to the California electricity crisis. Under a plan laid out by the commission, the FERC staff will review the ideas and offer a proposal by March 1.

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