LaFleur takes over as acting chair of U.S. power regulator


WASHINGTON, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Democratic CommissionerCheryl LaFleur has been named acting chairwoman of the U.S.Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency said on Monday.

The move was expected after the previous chairman, JonWellinghoff, left FERC on Sunday.

FERC regulates elements of the U.S. natural gas,electricity, oil and hydropower industries, including thereliability of the electricity grid and the licensing ofliquefied natural gas export terminals.

In recent years it has instigated high-profileinvestigations against major banks, including JP Morgan Chase &Co and Barclays PLC for energy marketmanipulation and false reporting.

The agency imposed more than $304 million in fines againstenergy companies in fiscal 2013, its highest ever.

Wellinghoff's term ended on June 30. He had agreed to stayon until a replacement was confirmed.

The White House's original selection as the new FERC chief,Colorado regulator Ron Binz, withdrew his nomination in Octoberafter failing to win support from a key congressional panel.President Barack Obama has not announced a new nominee.

Wellinghoff was recently criticized by some lawmakers forstaying on, even after announcing that he will join Stoel RivesLLP, a law firm specializing in energy and environmentallitigation, after leaving the agency.

LaFleur, originally from Massachusetts, has a law degreefrom Harvard.

She joined the commission in 2010 after a long career in theelectric and natural gas industry, including a stint as actingchief executive officer at the utility company National GridUSA, a subsidiary of National Grid Plc.

The elevation of LaFleur leaves the five-member commissionone member short and - with two Democrats and two Republicans -potentially deadlocked on certain decisions.

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