FERC chairman tries to calm jitters over Perry’s directive

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 16, 2017

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will get a wide berth for how it responds to Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid-pricing proposal, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said today.

Perry directed FERC to change rules in the electricity markets it oversees to compensate coal and nuclear plants. His Sept. 29 proposal has worried some advocates of competing energy technologies, especially because FERC has squeezed its work on the directive into a compressed timeline, offering a short comment period for stakeholders.

Speaking to reporters at FERC’s headquarters, Chatterjee said FERC’s options for acting within the Department of Energy’s prescribed 60-day window aren’t limited to finalizing or rejecting the proposal. They range, he said, from creating a new proposed rulemaking altogether to calling for a technical conference.

FERC could do an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, a notice of proposed rulemaking superseding the DOE proposal, he said. The agency could also extend the comment period, convene technical conferences or initiate Federal Power Act Section 206 review proceedings, he said.

“There are many tools available to the commission to act within 60 days to address and put a process in place … determining whether or not there are attributes that need to be properly valued, in a legally defensible manner, that doesn’t blow up markets,” he said.

Chatterjee emphasized that FERC is accepting comments from stakeholders and will use that feedback to shape its response.

Praising Perry for “bold leadership,” Chatterjee said the DOE chief has accelerated a conversation that has been ongoing for years.

Chatterjee borrowed language from fellow FERC Commissioner Robert Powelson, who said of Perry’s proposal that he doesn’t want to “blow up the markets” (Greenwire, Oct. 5).

“I don’t think the goals that Secretary Perry are trying to achieve are inconsistent with strong, stable markets,” Chatterjee said.

The FERC chairman said he looks forward to working with Powelson, a Republican, and with Democratic Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, who endorsed Powelson’s comments on Twitter — but also maintained that people jumped to the conclusion that Powelson wouldn’t support the DOE proposal.

“I think the three of us work well together,” Chatterjee said. “I think we’ll continue to work well together, and I think we can find consensus.”

He added, “Once we build this docket, get this record, get comments in, we and our teams will work well with our staff and try to get to a resolution here.”