3 picks cleared; FERC candidates blocked

Source: Sam Mintz and Manuel Quiñones, E&E News reporters • Posted: Friday, October 6, 2017

The Senate yesterday approved three top nominees by voice vote before adjourning for more than a week, but an effort by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to advance picks for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed.

FERC now has three members after six months without a quorum, but two more nominees have been waiting for their Senate vote for weeks.

Kevin McIntyre, a Jones Day energy lawyer who will become chairman if confirmed, and Richard Glick, a Senate Democratic aide, passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 19 (Greenwire, Sept. 19).

“It is my hope that we will be able to come to agreement with regards to the nominees that I have just asked for our consideration,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) objected to her maneuver.

“This is a commission that has been without a functioning quorum for months on end; they have just recently been able to achieve that quorum, but they are not yet to a full complement,” Murkowski said.

“We had worked hard to reach an agreement with colleagues so that these names could advance, so that FERC could get to work in an expeditious manner. There is much to be considered, and the work that has piled up, that has cost our economy, our country over these many months … have been considerable.”

If McIntyre and Glick are confirmed anytime soon, they will walk straight into a major energy policy brouhaha, as FERC considers a proposed rulemaking from the Department of Energy that would shake up electricity markets by granting support to coal and nuclear plants.

Two sitting commissioners earlier this week criticized the DOE plan, signaling that FERC will not directly follow the department’s lead (Greenwire, Oct. 5).

Later, the Senate, prompted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), approved retired Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet for the No. 2 position at NOAA, Howard “Skip” Elliott to head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Bruce Walker for Department of Energy assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved Elliott and Gallaudet this week. The ENR panel also cleared Walker in recent days.