FERC chairman expected to step down — sources

Source: Hannah Northey and Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporters • Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2018

The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was conspicuously absent from an agency meeting today as speculation mounted that he may soon relinquish his post.

Kevin McIntyre, a Trump appointee who has been struggling with health issues, did not attend the gathering at FERC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters this morning, nor did he vote on agenda items. He was previously absent from FERC’s September meeting due to medical issues, according to an agency source.

In recent days, sources close to the commission have said McIntyre could announce he will cede his chairmanship at the agency as early as today and that the White House will subsequently tap FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee as chairman. Still, there was widespread uncertainty about any leadership changes, and it remains unclear if or when McIntyre’s role may change.

The White House said it had no personnel news to share today, but McIntyre’s chief of staff, Anthony Pugliese, told reporters after today’s meeting his boss will be issuing a statement in the coming days.

“I can’t say exactly when that’ll be or what it’ll say,” Pugliese told E&E News in a follow-up email.

Last year, the chairman underwent surgery for a cancerous brain tumor (Energywire, March 12). In March, he issued a statement on the diagnosis and, citing “personal and family privacy,” said he would not “provide further details or updates on this subject.”

He was last seen in public in his capacity as FERC chairman at a July 19 open meeting. He also recorded a podcast on Sept. 11 to discuss liquefied natural gas developments at FERC.

Commissioners at today’s meeting offered solemn support and prayers for McIntyre and his family.

“I’m very sorry Chairman McIntyre isn’t able to be here today, and I continue to send him warm wishes for his recovery,” said FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. “And I know everyone does.”

Sources suggested that McIntyre, 57, could potentially step down from the commission entirely or stay on as a member of the panel until President Trump’s FERC nominee, Bernard McNamee, is confirmed by the Senate. McNamee is expected to be confirmed after the midterm elections and is seen as a possible successor to McIntyre as chairman.

Theories of McIntyre’s possible departure have been fueled by news that Chatterjee was called to the White House on Tuesday. Chatterjee, 41, served briefly as FERC chairman from August 2017 until that December, when McIntyre was sworn in.

A former staffer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chatterjee has been standing in frequently for McIntyre, including yesterday at the meeting of the Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee.

And several weeks ago, he was named as McIntyre’s replacement to deliver the closing keynote address at the Energy Bar Association’s Mid-Year Energy Forum in Washington after McIntyre canceled. That speech is scheduled for Oct. 30.

When asked about his White House meeting, Chatterjee yesterday declined to answer questions about the reason for his visit.