Former Cuomo adviser heads to FERC

Source: By Lesley Clark, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2021

An energy analyst and former policy adviser for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today that he’s joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a legal adviser to new Commissioner Allison Clements.

“New year, new job,” Miles Farmer said on Twitter, adding that he was excited to announce the move to the five-member panel charged with overseeing regional energy markets and large-scale natural gas infrastructure.

A former senior policy adviser to Cuomo’s energy team, Farmer worked on the state’s landmark clean energy bill, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act.

He was previously a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he pushed back against FERC’s pricing rule and helped develop the group’s approach to wholesale energy market rules to expedite clean energy grid integration.

He opened his own consulting practice last April, focused on renewables, power markets and FERC.

Clements, a longtime energy lawyer, was sworn into office in December. She headed the clean energy program at the Energy Foundation and, like Farmer, worked with NRDC on FERC-related issues.

Clements’ other senior staff hires include FERC attorney and longtime energy and environmental attorney Carol Clayton as a legal adviser; Byron Corum, a FERC economist and adviser to Glick, as a technical adviser; Kathleen Benard, former executive assistant to former Commissioner Bernard McNamee, as executive assistant; Kris Fitzpatrick, a supervisory energy industry analyst at FERC and former technical adviser to former commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Tony Clark, as technical adviser; and Ashanti Washington, a communications officer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, as a confidential assistant.

Congressional Democrats have expressed interest in leveraging FERC to achieve zero-carbon energy and protecting frontline communities that bear the brunt of environmental pollution, though the commission is likely to retain a Republican majority through June.

President-elect Joe Biden, however, will be able to install a Democratic chair at FERC — potentially Clements — once he’s inaugurated on Jan. 20, giving Democrats the ability to set the agenda and determine what comes up for a vote.

Clements was confirmed by the Senate in December, along with Republican Mark Christie, who will be sworn in later today, returning the panel to its full complement of five commissioners. They joined Democratic Commissioner Richard Glick, along with Chair James Danly and Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, both Republicans.

Though there is a chance Danly could step down once Biden appoints either Glick or Clements as chair, many observers expect him to finish out his term, which expires in 2023. Chatterjee’s tenure is slated to end in June, making that the earliest Biden could nominate another Democrat.

Farmer last year hailed a proposal by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to make changes at FERC, noting that if Biden were to win, “FERC commissioners are among the most important decisions he will make with regard to what the future of energy looks like in the United States” (Energywire, July 1, 2020).

Farmer noted when he started his consulting firm that he would focus on wholesale electricity markets, procurement and development, transmission and distribution systems development, and implementation of FERC orders.

“FERC is definitely going to have to figure out how to resolve the MOPR tension,” he said in an interview with E&E News at the time, referring to the commission’s contentious minimum offer price rule that raises the price floor for state-mandated generation — mainly renewables — in the PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest electricity market (Energywire, April 30, 2020).

“How can FERC markets work well with state policies? That’s something I want to engage with,” he said.