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A number of FERC employees were also on the emails, including Chris Murray, who arranged one of the in-person and online meetings that included VennSquared, the two lobbyists and Mr. Binz.

In one July 19 email with Mr. Murray that only involved the two lobbyists and Mr. Meehan’s firm, but not Mr. Binz, they arranged a phone meeting to talk about the press coverage the nomination was getting.

Lobbying is not allowed for FERC employees. Charles Beamon, the designated agency ethics officer at FERC, said he didn’t know what was discussed at the meetings, but said he’d be surprised if his agency’s employees crossed any lines into lobbying.
“Our people are well-trained, well-experienced. They would know better than to lobby,” Mr. Beamon said.
The Wall Street Journal has editorialized against Mr. Binz, while liberal groups have rallied around him — as have former FERC commissioners of both parties, who wrote a reply to the Journal.

Mr. Binz has an impressive 34-year career in energy policy. If the Senate confirms him, we think he will be a fair and impartial judge and further the public interest within the FERC’s authority,” the former commissioners said.

They said that FERC not only acts in its judicial role, but also issues rules, which amounts to legislating, which makes Mr. Binz’s experience helpful.

Benjamin Cole, communications director at the Institute for Energy Research, an industry-funded think tank that is part of a campaign to stop Mr. Obama’s global warming agenda from reaching FERC, said the fight over Mr. Binz has surprised all sides, but said the intense effort to get him confirmed makes sense.

“[FERC] is the only central component of Obama’s climate action plan that he doesn’t have control of from the White House or within his Cabinet,” Mr. Cole said.