Energy regulators disagree on whether to delay actions amid coronavirus

Source: By Rachel Frazin, The Hill • Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2020

One commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed delaying certain regulatory actions amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

The commission’s chairman, however, is cool to the idea.

The organization’s one Democratic commissioner, Richard Glick, said in a Thursday statement that while FERC is required by law to carry out certain actions, it should pause others to allow the industry to focus on its response the virus. 

“I believe we should refrain from acting to allow parties who are otherwise dealing with the pandemic to avoid putting resources toward seeking rehearing of a Commission order,” Glick said. 

Chairman Neil Chatterjee, however, said Thursday on a call with reporters that in some cases it might be good to be flexible but that in general “the last thing the industry needs right now is delays.”

He added that delays would be unfair for those waiting on the commission to act.

FERC regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. The energy industry has been particularly affected by the coronavirus, with oil prices plummeting this week to the lowest level since 2003. 

On Thursday, Chatterjee also laid out the commission’s own plan for its employees to deal with the virus. 

He said in a statement that most of the commission’s employees are teleworking and that its headquarters will be closed to visitors until further notice. 

All of its technical work through May will either be done through conference calls or web-conferencing or it will be postponed.

The commissioner was also questioned on recent complaints by senators who believe FERC is becoming too partisan. The issue was heightened by the recent confirmation of James Danly, whose spot now puts Republicans in a 3-1 majority.

“Filling the Republican seat while leaving the Democratic seat vacant is not in keeping with the longstanding practice of this committee or the need to keep the commission bipartisan,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee ranking member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) after voting to advance the nomination

Chatterjee told reporters, however, that he believes, “The overwhelming majority of the work we do is by consensus. It shouldn’t matter what political party there is.”