By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Feb. 11, 2002 — US Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) called on Texan Pat Wood III to resign as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, citing his ties to Enron Corp. and its former chairman Ken Lay.
In a Friday letter, Pascrell said Wood’s ability to “fairly and neutrally oversee the country’s energy policies has been irrevocably compromised. It is clear that the relationship between the FERC and Enron is unacceptably intertwined to serve the public’s interest.”
Pascrell, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, recounted published reports that claim Lay interviewed potential nominees to FERC and presented his recommendations to President George W. Bush’s personnel director. Wood, formerly chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, was reportedly Lay’s top choice for chairman to replace fellow Republican Curtis Hebert.
Pascrell said FERC has made 139 regulatory decisions concerning Enron since 1995, including 18 since Bush took office. “One simply cannot have confidence in the neutrality of FERC at this time,” he said.
During his tenure at the Texas PUC, Wood was instrumental in shepherding deregulation of the Texas electricity markets through the Texas Legislature. Enron, which filed for bankruptcy protection Dec. 2, was at the forefront of pushing electricity deregulation legislation in Texas.
Last month Max Yzaguirre, chairman of the Texas PUC, resigned after surfacing as a potential political liability for Gov. Rick Perry, because of his prior employment by Enron. Perry named Yzaguirre to fill the vacancy left by Wood.
The only connection to Enron Yzaguirre originally acknowledged was being an officer of Enron’s operations in Mexico. He later confirmed holding other positions with Enron, which is at the heart of a rapidly evolving financial and political scandal.
Lay resigned from Enron’s board of directors Feb.4, effectively severing all formal ties with the Houston energy company he helped build. Lay has been subpoenaed to appear Tuesday before the US Senate Commerce Committee, but a spokeswoman said he will exercise his right not to testify. He also is scheduled to appear before a House committee Thursday.