FERC’s McNamee not seeking 2nd term as commissioner

Source: By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive • Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2020

For many energy sector stakeholders, the 2017 lack of quorum within FERC, which prevented the regulatory commission from acting on most of its business, is still a fresh memory. And with only three of five commissioners currently in place, losing McNamee could mean more regulatory uncertainty.

However, McNamee said he is going to stay beyond his end date, as allowed, in order to prevent such an incident. He has communicated to the White House that he will not be seeking a second term. The administration is working on nominations, he told reporters.

In November, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced, mostly across party lines, the president’s FERC nominee, James Danly, who is currently serving as FERC general counsel. However, that nomination was returned to the White House at the end of 2019, after the Senate failed to confirm or reject Danly in one annual session, as per Senate rules.

The White House has not officially renominated Danly, but Chatterjee told the press he considers the process “a paperwork issue” and that he “remain[s] optimistic.”

Danly would be the third Republican with only one Democrat currently on the commission, although Democrats have asked for the White House to officially nominate a Democratic candidate alongside Danly.

A fifth commissioner spot has been vacant since LaFleur’s exit in August, although a Democratic pick has already been vetted for nomination.

Chatterjee added that priorities won’t be getting shifted based on McNamee’s news.

“I don’t see any change in direction, there’s no prioritization or moving around of agenda,” he said, adding that former Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur also stayed past the end of her official term in 2019.

Chatterjee credited McNamee for working together with him and LaFleur, a Democrat, to advance a number of natural gas infrastructure projects.

McNamee, whose family is based in Richmond, said he would not seek another FERC term for personal reasons. According to Chatterjee, the commissioner will be transitioning to spend more time at home as his son advances to high school. McNamee did not make any statements about his next role.

The federal regulator has a number of pending issues, including the potential for a rehearing of its December order to set a higher floor price for state-subsidized resources in the PJM Interconnection.

“We take … the comments for rehearing extremely seriously here and want to ensure that whatever action the Commission takes has maximum legal durability,” Chatterjee said.

FERC will be reviewing the various requests filed for rehearing of the PJM Minimum Offer Price Rule decision. Stakeholders pushing back on the commission’s decision include the grid operator.