FERC Chairman hails embattled aide, calls him ‘highly qualified’

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre defended his beleaguered chief of staff in an agency podcast today.

Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese has faced calls for his resignation in the wake of a politically charged interview last month with Breitbart News Network and a speech he gave to the American Nuclear Society in which he bashed New York Democrats for halting pipeline projects (Energywire, Aug. 9).

McIntyre called Pugliese “highly qualified.”

“Under the chief of staff’s leadership, we have markedly increased our communications and coordination with the Department of Energy and the national security community on matters pertaining to cybersecurity,” McIntyre said.

He also said Pugliese has improved coordination with “state and other governmental entities in addition to other regulated companies, ensuring that they, too, are able to maintain awareness of cyberthreats and to take appropriate protective measures.”

A recent memorandum between FERC and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, he added, “could not have happened” without Pugliese.

Today’s podcast follows a letter from McIntyre to congressional Democrats made public last week in which he said that he had authorized Pugliese’s public appearances and that the chief of staff was not speaking officially for the commission (E&E News PM, Sept. 6).

McIntyre also said FERC is continuing to work on several key policy issues, including the agency’s review of grid resilience.

FERC continues to review comments in a docket that was opened after the agency rejected a proposal by DOE to change electricity market rules in a way that would have helped keep coal and nuclear plants open.

“My colleagues and I, along with our terrific commission staff, are still reviewing the submissions and determining what additional action is needed to address grid resilience. That could encompass a range of actions that allow the transmission grid to withstand, adapt to and recover from both naturally occurring and man-made disruptive events,” McIntyre said.

He also said the agency is working on its comprehensive review of its natural gas pipeline permitting policies, which were last updated in 1999.

“We need to make sure our gas certification process and policies are as efficient and effective as possible and are reflective of the circumstances and conditions that prevail in the industry today,” he said.

The pipeline policy review was one of the first announcements made by McIntyre when he came on as chairman, but anti-pipeline activists have questioned whether it will result in any meaningful changes.

McIntyre also provided an update on his health, saying that he is on the mend after breaking several vertebrae earlier this summer, and that he and the commission have been working hard the last few months. The chairman revealed in March that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year (Energywire, March 12).