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Senator to U.S.: Please investigate the energy enforcer we just promoted

Gates and Gates vs. Norman Bay

On July 15, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., voted with most of his Democratic colleagues and against most of the Republican minority to confirm Norman Bay, head of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as the agency's next chairman. 

On July 18, Casey sent a letter to Energy Department inspector general Gregory H. Friedman asking for a seven-point review of FERC enforcement -- the group Bay heads.

Casey wants FERC to ensure Bay's unit has been investigating "fairly," providing "efficient" oversight of its investigations, not conducting "unnecessarily prolonged investigations," not "violat(ing) its requirements for confidentiality" in investigations, "allocating its limited resources" to prioritize important investigations, and questioning whether FERC, on Bay's watch, had investigated "alleged market manipulation" or "pursued enforcement actions" in cases where the alleged behaviors were not illegal "at the time they occurred."

Those veiled questions fit complaints against FERC by two of Casey's constitutents, Richard and Kevin Gates of West Chester, who manage more than $2 billion of other people's money through their firm, TFS Capital, and who have alleged, in a public campaign laying out their complaints (and hiring ex-FERC experts) at their Web site (see Casey's letter there too), that FERC under Bay has been relentlessly investigating them for energy trades designed to reap millions in market trading compensation payments, at a time when such trades weren't illegal.

Why would Casey endorse Bay as top energy regulator, then call for an investigation of his office? "Senator Casey believes that FERC has an essential obligation to protect consumers," and "in an appropriate and transparent way," his spokesman, John Rizzo told me.

Nobody's gonna argue with that. Except, shouldn't the investigation come before a guy's promoted?