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White House stands by FERC pick; Senate aide says others weighed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday publicly stood by its pick for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, even as a Senate aide said the administration is considering a replacement for the embattled nominee.

Opponents of Binz have accused him of favoring renewable energy sources over fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, citing among other things a comment from him this year calling natural gas a "dead end" energy source.

Binz, a regulatory consultant who served as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission from 2007 to 2011, has faced opposition on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is currently weighing his nomination.

All ten Republicans on the 22-member panel have pledged to vote against Binz. They are joined by at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin from the coal-producing state of West Virginia, leaving the panel evenly split on the nomination.

Without support of the majority of the committee, the administration is looking at other options to head the energy commission, energy committee spokesman Keith Chu said.

"The committee is aware that other candidates are being considered to lead FERC," Chu said in a statement.

While the panel said other nominees are being weighed, the White House continued to offer public support for Binz.

"He's qualified, and the Senate ought to act on his nomination," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday when asked whether the administration was looking for another candidate.

Binz declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

FERC, which has about 1,500 employees, regulates elements of the U.S. natural gas, electricity, oil and hydropower industries, including the reliability of the electricity grid and the licensing of liquefied natural gas export terminals.

FERC officials did not respond to questions about the status of Binz's nomination.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Mark Felsenthal and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny, Sandra Maler and Tim Dobbyn)

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