FERC Leadership Change: What You Need To Know

by | Oct 29, 2018

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FERC

President Trump has nominated Neil Chatterjee, a former Republican Senate staffer, to replace outgoing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chair Kevin McIntyre. Citing health reasons, McIntyre announced he would be stepping down from his post but staying on as a commissioner.

FERC’s stated mission is to assist consumers in obtaining reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means. The independent agency regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity as well as natural gas and hydropower projects.

Chatterjee and McIntyre are both Republicans while commissioners Cheryl A. LaFleur and Richard Glick are Democrats. The president also nominated Republican Bernard McNamee to the five-person commission. His Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for November 15, Roll Call reported. McNamee helped roll out the DOE’s failed coal and nuclear bailout plan last year, Greentech Media’s Jeff St. John points out.

“For the first two years of the Trump Administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had retained some of its reputation as an independent, technocratic manager and arbiter of the nation’s power and gas markets,” PV Magazine’s Christian Roselund wrote. “FERC notably rejected Secretary Perry’s request for a coal and nuclear bailout.”

Even though the political balance hasn’t changed, FERC observers wonder whether the agency’s independent reputation will.

Chatterjee previously served as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and was acting chair of FERC for four months in 2017 before McIntyre officially became the agency head, the Associated Press reported. In that period, Chatterjee oversaw FERC’s initial response to the DOE’s proposed coal and nuclear bailout, Utility Dive’s Gavin Bade wrote.

“Chatterjee ruffled feathers at the commission for floating a short-term coal and nuclear subsidy proposal to the press before notifying fellow regulators and their staffs,” Bade wrote. “Though he eventually voted against the DOE’s proposal, Chatterjee’s presentation of that plan and subsequent comments defending it were unusual for a FERC regulator, who typically do not comment extensively on pending issues before the commission.”

When FERC rejected the DOE’s bailout plan in January, the agency launched a high-profile investigation into grid resiliency, Bade reported. FERC also has big decisions coming up on capacity markets, plant retirements, natural gas pipelines, and the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.

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