Chatterjee vows to stay if Dems win White House

Source: By Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2019

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee said he intends to serve out his term even if a Democrat takes the White House next year.

Asked if he would stay at the agency even if President Trump does not win reelection, Chatterjee said, “My term goes until June of 2021 or when a successor could be confirmed, so I intend to finish out my term.

“I intend to stay in the fight,” he added in an exchange with reporters after yesterday’s monthly commission meeting.

Were a Democrat to win the presidency in 2020, the FERC chairmanship would switch to a Democrat, possibly current Commissioner Richard Glick.

In a Politico podcast Monday, Chatterjee had been asked about reports that he was looking for an early exit from the agency as soon as the end of the year. After its broadcast, Chatterjee issued a statement saying, “I want to state unequivocally that I intend to complete my term.”

At FERC yesterday, Chatterjee also shot down rumors of other ambitions he might harbor. “I’m not going to take a job at [a regional transmission organization] or a company or an environmental group or in consumer advocacy,” he said. “I’m not running for office in Kentucky; I’m not running for office in Virginia. I have never expressed interest in being DOE secretary.”

He said the process to get appointed to FERC “doesn’t just take a toll on the individual.”

“There are a lot of people at the White House, in the Senate, here at the commission who prepare nominees to go through the process,” he said. “I really feel that when you sign up for these jobs, you make a commitment to the president that nominated you, the Senate that confirmed you and to stakeholders, to the regulated community that they have some certainty that you will finish out the job.”

If an energy concern approached him and offered a job doubling his current salary, he was asked, would he tell it to come back after June of 2021? Chatterjee said: “Absolutely. One hundred percent Shermanesque statement. I’ll say it right now.”

Rosy winter outlook

Energy consumers can expect an ample supply of natural gas and lower prices than last year, coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures across much of the nation, FERC said in its winter energy market assessment unveiled yesterday.

Natural gas storage levels are expected to be above the five-year average, reflecting robust injections as natural gas production set a record in the first half of 2019.

The gas inventories will help supply the sometimes competing demands for winter heating and fuel for power generation, based on FERC’s analysis.

Earlier this month, a natural gas industry group said electricity generators are expected to set a record for gas use this winter, reflecting the continued addition of new gas-fired power plants to replace coal units (Energywire, Oct. 4).

The futures price of natural gas for the winter — which factors into electricity rates — is 73 cents below last winter, with an average price of $2.56 per million British thermal units for January and February. The price is forecast to be lower in all regions except New England, where pipeline constraints will push prices to $6.54/MMBtu, FERC said.

On the plus side for New England, weather there is likely to be warmer than normal, FERC said, citing the NOAA forecast.

In terms of an outlook for electricity, FERC said all regions of the country have reserve margins that exceed their targets. The reserve margin amounts to a cushion of available electric generation capacity above that needed to meet forecast peak demand.

The commission also continued its approval of natural gas pipelines, giving the green light to two projects that would move gas to markets from the Marcellus Basin. Both were approved 2-1, with Glick dissenting based on his belief the commission is ignoring its responsibility to account for greenhouse gas emissions from such projects.

Yesterday’s was the first monthly gathering of the commission in its meeting room newly named in honor of Kevin McIntyre, a former FERC chairman who died Jan. 2.